Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Another update

Peter and I had a phone meeting with the program coordinator of the Ethiopia program at Wide Horizons for Children (WHFC) yesterday. She confirmed that once we get on the waiting list for a referral (please send us our document Dept. of Homeland Security!) our wait time for a referral should be within 12 months. And we hope to get on that list by January 8th.

She said we would likely be referred a child aged 13 to 24 months old. And that most of the referrals are coming from three regions in Ethiopia: the capital of Addis Ababa, a southern region called Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region (SNNPR) (primarily the Sidama ethnic group), and a northern region of Tigray. Addis Ababa is in the center of the country, SNNPR borders Kenya to the south and Sudan to the west, and Tigray borders Eritrea to the north and Sudan to the west. In case you're curious, here's a map of the regions of Ethiopia:

While Amharic is the official language of all of Ethiopia, different languages are spoken in this various regions -- Amharic in Addis Ababa, Tigrinya in Tigray, and primarily Sidamigna in SNNRP, though there are at least 10 different languages spoken in the SNNRP alone. Once the children are referred to WHFC, however, they all travel to Addis Ababa to live in the WHFC orphanage until adoptive parents travel to pick them up. There, the language is predominantly Amharic. So, we hope to learn basic Amharic in the coming year to be able to speak with our toddler when he/she arrives.

In that spirit, Melikam yelidet beale Melikam Addis Amet! (Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Totally Unrelated Funny Story

Let me tell you a story about a car, a smelly heater that died, and the dog food...

Two weeks ago Peter's car heater quit working. But of course he is so busy, he didn't have time to get it fixed and simply started wearing lots of long underwear to make his 45 minute commute, each way, to Westfield every day. Then his car started smelling really bad.

Peter kept telling me, "My car smells like dog food!" I kept saying, "Get the heater fixed!" Then I rode in his car one day to a place we go running (we didn't want to stink up my really nice car with our post-running scents). His car stunk! It smelled like a rotten banana. Peter said, "My car smells like dog food!!" I responded, "No it doesn't, it smells like something died, or rotted! It smells like a rotten banana! You have a rotten banana somewhere in your car! Clean your car! Get the heater fixed!!" And so forth. I can really get on a soap box and yell. Peter says he likes that about me. Most of the time...

So this week, since my classes had ended and I could work from home for a couple days, I loaned Peter my car and we took his to the shop to get the heater fixed. The car guys said, "It'll be around 40 bucks for the part and 50 bucks for the labor to put in the new 'switch' for the burned out heater." Whatever that meant. We left it Tuesday morning at 6am, hoping to retrieve it that afternoon.

Around 3pm I called the car guys and asked when it would be ready. They said something about the part not coming in, but it should be in, and they would rush and have it done at 5:30. I walked down the hill for the car at 5pm. I said "Hi, I'm here for the Echo." The car guys looked at each other and started laughing. They said "Come out here, you gotta see this." I was reluctant, thinking they were going to show me a nest of dead mice in the engine. They reassured me saying, "No, this is cute. This is funny."

The car guys walk me up to the car and open the passenger door. THE ENTIRE FLOOR OF THE CAR IS FLOODED WITH DOG CHOW! I say, "You've gotta be kidding me! Did my husband call and put you up to this? This is nuts!" They say, "No, it's dog food! When we pulled out the dash to get at the heater, about 8 pounds of dog food cascaded into the car from the heater box." (ok, they probably didn't say 'cascaded').

So the heater box, and every nook and cranny of the car engine was filled with dog food. ??? Obviously, the car isn't ready. I trudge back up the hill, walk over to the 40 pound bag of dog food we had stored in the garage, and pick it up. It's light as a feather. There is a hole in the bottom and the bag is 2/3rds empty.

All the previous week I had called my dog Belle away from that bag as she (blindly) wandered through the garage to her doggy door that leads to an outdoor run. I couldn't figure why she kept going off her well worn path around the cars to that little door to investigate the dog food bag. Our dogs are not enamored with dog food. They are free fed Purina dog chow 24-hours a day, and it's just not something that excites them. Turns out my blind dog was scenting on the rodents pillaging her dog food.

Well, the next day and $240 smackers later, Peter's car had a new heater and was free from dog food. We've moved the dog food into the house and have bought dryer sheet softeners. We've been told to pack those into the nooks and crannies of the car to keep the rodents out. Apparently they like the smell of rotten bananas over fresh laundry.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dossier Accepted!

Yea! We just heard from Katie Landry at Wide Horizons for Children that our error-free dossier has been accepted by the Ethiopia program. She said she was impressed by the careful way we prepared it and we don't need to fix anything!

What happens now is our adoption agency sends it to various government agencies (American and Ethiopian) for seals of verification (called apostilles). The one last thing we are waiting for is the official approval from USCIS/Dept. of Homeland Security regarding our advance petition to adopt an orphan (the I600A form for which we were fingerprinted on Dec. 6th). The prediction is we will have that in hand by the first or second week of January 2009, and at that point we will be "logged in" on the official waiting list for a referral of a child.

So everything is on track and moving along as we had hoped. Woo-Hoo!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Medical Missions to Ethiopia

Still waiting to hear from the adoption agency on our dossier. Still waiting to hear from Homeland Security about our application. But in the meantime, have been following our adoption agency's latest initiatives in Ethiopia...

I'm reading an excellent book, "There Is No Me Without You," and wrapping presents for our Christmas in the midwest. Hoping for snow and skiing soon!

Monday, December 8, 2008

We Need Africa

We need Africa more than Africa needs us.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Signed, Sealed, and Delivered!

Happy Thanksgiving Eve to you! Peter and I sent ALL of our final documents to our adoption agency (aka, the dossier), completely notarized, certified, and bonafied today. We also received our fingerprint appointment from the Department of Homeland Security and will be doing that on December 6th in Hartford, Conn. Now, unless they find any errors in our paperwork, we ARE DONE with everything that can be done. And we will begin the waiting period for a referral. Yea!! We celebrated by going out to some hoity-toity French restaurant this evening.

Tomorrow I'm making apple pie for friends, but otherwise hanging out quietly. Peter is working the holiday and this coming weekend, though he is off on Friday. We picked out our tree on Sunday and it is awaiting my careful adornment, so perhaps I'll conquer that tomorrow. Last year Peter put the tree up by himself because I was in Germany, so I'm looking forward to it this year.

One exciting bit of news is that our congressman gave us tickets to Barack Obama's inauguration in January! We are really excited to go, and have booked a trip from Jan 17-21. We'll be in DC for Martin Luther King Day and the next day for the inauguration. We couldn't believe we got tickets, although I did write our congressman for them on election night.

We have many things and many people to be thankful for this year. We are especially thankful to our very caring friends who have written us endless letters of evaluation for our adoption (that'd be you Sanjiv, Jen, Eric, and Suzi, thanks!!!!) We're also thankful for the support from other friends and family. I don't imagine we'll have our child home yet next Thanksgiving, but hopefully not too long after that.

Love and blessings to you all.....

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why Ethiopia?

So a number of friends have asked me, "why Ethiopia?" when I tell them about our adoption journey. This is an easy question to answer, as Peter and I have many reasons for choosing Ethiopia. One reason is because we have had a long standing interest in the country, its people, history, culture, cuisine, and art. Starting with our years at Augsburg College where Peter, in particular, had several friends who were from Ethiopia, to his work with Ethiopian refugees in Minneapolis, to our enjoyment of Ethiopian culture and cuisine in the Twin Cities area (did any of you know that the Twin Cities hosts the second largest Ethiopian immigrant population in the US?), to the friends we've had from Ethiopia in Philadelphia and even Rostock, we've long had connections with the country and are committed to maintaining our future child's connections to his/her ethnic origins.

Another reason we chose Ethiopia is because of the possibility of maintaining connections to our child's birth family and relatives. It is common for those of us adopting from Ethiopia to meet birth family relatives while in Ethiopia to pick up our child. Compared with children needing adoptive families from other countries, children placed for adoption in Ethiopia are more commonly orphans due to parental death from childbirth (women's lifetime risk of dying in childbirth is 1 in 14), from the AIDS epidemic, or from simpler things like diarhea and malnutrition. While extended family members or the surviving parent typically try to care for children as long as possible, increasingly children are placed in Kebeles, or community orphanages, when the family no longer has the resources to provide care. Ethiopians treasure their children and often wish to maintain connections with children even after placing them in Kebeles for adoption. Thus, it is very common for families to request meetings with adoptive parents whenever possible. We think the high potential of maintaining these ties is wonderful and important for the healthy development of our future son/daughter. Most international adoptions do not allow for these connections, and this led us to favor Ethiopia.

Another set of reasons for choosing Ethiopia have to do with our adoption agency, Wide Horizons for Children (WHFC). Our agency maintains its own private orphanage in Addis Ababa where children receive excellent care and our agency works hard to place children who are less likely to be adopted due to their age or health issues. More importantly, our agency has extensive humanitarian projects in multiple regions of Ethiopia to work to improve the lives of children and families and their communities. They are involved in public health projects, water supply/irrigation projects, school building/education projects, and more. It is important to us that our agency channels monies that we contribute (and that they raise through charity programs) to impact Ethiopia in a positive way. We believe that in a better world, Ethiopians would not need to place their children with foreign families, but would have the resources to adopt children within country. We aren't living in that world yet, but through strong humanitarian efforts (and different American foreign policies), we can work for that world. Thus, the fact that our agency is in line with our values in their work in Ethiopia contributed to our choosing them and Ethiopia as our pathway to building our family.

Children from Ethiopia, like children everywhere, are simply beautiful. The children in orphanages deserve families to love and nuture them, and Peter and I want to raise a child. Some day in the future the stars will align (and the bureaucracies of two countries will agree) and a child from Ethiopia will find her/his new home with us. And we will gladly embrace that child and Ethiopia as a forever part of our family.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Patience has never been my virtue...

Hi all! It's just soooo slllooooowwww..... I told Peter this weekend about how difficult it is for me to wait for bureaucracies to go through the motions and feel so powerless to do anything about it. He chuckled when I said I actually have pain inside me from feeling so impatient.

So our home study is done and we are praying they send it, our I600A application, and money to the Department of Homeland Security tomorrow so that we can get approval to seek to adopt a foreign child. We are virtually done with the dossier of papers that will be sent to Ethiopia after we get US approval. Our little Williamsburg police department has been amazingly helpful in writing up clearances for us, contrary to the experiences of our friends who live in other small towns nearby. Yesterday Peter photographed our house while I prepared our financial statement for the dossier. Ugh, I didn't realize how bad our retirement funds got hit this year. My personal rate of return on my 403b was -41% this year (yeah, that's a negative sign). I can't think about that now, I'll think about that tomorrow...

To celebrate his 40th birthday, Peter wanted to get road bicycles to encourage our ever increasing riding habits. We've been doing long-distance rides on his mountain bike and my commuter bike, and apparently having lean and sleek road bikes will be more fun (he tells me). We both got used bikes...he got a Pinarello Galileo at the local bike shop and I got a Trek Madone 5.2 via eBay. Peter rode his new bike in the basement for an hour last night (on a windtrainer) and mine is being assembled at the bike shop this week. Now if we could only find out where all those Tour de France guys get their performance enhancing drugs... :-) (Just kidding Dept. of Homeland Security!)

By the way, here is a picture from Peter's party....


Friday, October 24, 2008

Greetings! Well, Peter and I are still waiting to wait. Our social worker is still writing up our home study report. We have made some more concrete decisions though. We are going to try Ethiopia first and we are requesting a healthy child (either gender) between the ages of 0 to 24 months. This is slightly older than we initially thought (originally we thought under 1 year old). But the process for a child that young would take 2 to 3 years, whereas being open to a slightly older child should make the process take under 18 months. And everyone who knows me should know patience has never been a virtue of mine! As soon as we get our homestudy, we'll file our I-600A application with Homeland Security in order to get permission to pursue an international adoption. We'll wait a couple months for a fingerprint appointment with the FBI after filing that. But it will give us time to assemble the dossier.

In the meantime, Peter just turned 40 this week, and we are hosting a big party tomorrow evening to celebrate. Peter has always wanted a Halloween costume party, so that's what we're having. I cleaned yesterday, we're decorating tonight, and tomorrow its going to be food-shopping, cake-baking, and celebrating! We do have our costumes and no, we aren't going as political figures (too scary), also I didn't have $150,000 to spend on a wardrobe.

We also finally planned our Christmas travels back to the midwest and will be arriving in Minneapolis on Christmas eve. We'll be in Owatonna until Dec 28th, then to Cumberland until New Year's eve. Except for my sister, I haven't seen any family for almost a year and a half, so I'm most looking forward to it!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The longest journey begins with...

Hold onto your hats...the rumors are true! After celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary, we have decided to expand our family. Yesterday Peter and I finished the last of our home-study interviews with a home visit from our social worker, and we are that much closer on our journey of adoption.

We are very excited! There are still mountains of paperwork to assemble (and notarize) and many, many months of waiting to endure before we really add our new son or daughter to our home. We are hoping to have him/her home by Christmas 2010. That's a really looooong time isn't it? We'll pray for a faster timeline, but are expecting an elephant pregnancy (2 years of gestating).

In the immediate time horizon, we've already completed a series of couple and individual interviews with our social worker, 10 or so hours of pre-adoptive education requirements, two sets of paper work, and are attending our last formal class on Tuesday. In the coming month we assemble our dossier, send paperwork, birth certificates, our marriage certificate, our fingerprints, and a vial of blood (just kidding on that last one) to homeland security for permission to adopt (did I mention we are pursuing international adoption?) If we are done with all the paperwork by Christmas 2008 we'll be making excellent progress.

This is very much a "hurry up and wait" process. After our paperwork is finalized, we are anticipating a 10 to 22 month wait for a child referral. This partially depends on the country we adopt from and how the socio-political conditions play out internationally. We are leaning very heavily toward adopting from Ethiopia, but are also considering Korea. We are working with a Massachusetts agency, Wide Horizons for Children, with well established programs in both countries. WHFC also has the notoriety of being the agency Angelina Jolie used to adopt her daughter Zahara, also from Ethiopia. Talking with her and Brad about their experiences with the agency has been a real trip. :-) Yeah, we wish.

We are now open game for all the friends we've tormented with baby name suggestions during their pregnancies. We, like expectant parents anywhere, just have one response. Bring it!