Thursday, December 31, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Mario Tuck

Playing with their new soccer goal from Gma & Gpa.

Opening presents.

Cal enjoying his first taste of Sparkling Red Grape Juice in a wine glass, of course!

Calvin giving his brother a raspberry on the belly.


We had a great Christmas this year!! Wes and Cal are the perfect age to realize that they can make a "list" for Santa. It is also the age when they put every single toy they can think of, see at stores, or see on TV -- on that Santa list.

On Christmas Eve, we continued our tradition by taking the boys to a movie. This year it was The Princess and the Frog. In the late afternoon, we went over to Adam's parents house to have Christmas Eve dinner with them and Adam's Grandma Fischer. It is always nice to spend time with her. She has alzheimers, and looking on the positive side, it is nice to see someone open Christmas presents out of turn because they can't wait, and also to see her get pleasantly surprised again when she notices gifts she has already opened but forgot about them. Even better, she can laugh along with us!

Zach and Jenna always spend the night on Christmas Eve. After the boys go to bed, we normally get presents ready while we snack on tons of food and watch Christmas Vacation. They were great sports when the boys woke us all up at 7:45 (normally it is around 9 am) because they were so excited to see what Santa brought. This year, Santa brought the boys a pet turtle and skateboards. They were excited! Calvin named the turtle "Mario", and Wes wanted to name the turtle "Tuck". We settled on "Mario Tuck". Later in the afternoon, Calvin told Zach that "Mario Tuck" is the turtle's full name, but they are just going to call him "Tuck".

This year was also different because Sabrina's parents came into town on Christmas Day. We were able to take a good afternoon nap before they came, and then we had Christmas dinner and opened presents with them. My parents got the boys bigger bicycles which came at a perfect time. The boys have started to play with the neighborhood kids and after riding their toddler bikes off of the curbs and down the front step -- they just don't work anymore.

Sabrina's parents stayed for a week, and it was a great week of playing games, hiking, going to the zoo, etc. We had a great time. On New Year's Eve, we ended up just staying home and getting some rest. We all slept in until after 10:30 a.m. the next morning. (Gotta love kids that like to sleep in!)

Monday, December 14, 2009

And Our Number Is . . . .

It's official! We are on the Ethiopia waiting list!!!!

And our number is . . . . 80!!!!!! This is lower than we expected!

Adam is predicting a referral by the end of Spring. I think that is WAY too early, but I'm predicting one by early fall. Let the countdown begin!!!!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bye Bye Dossier!!!


I can finally say that we shipped our Dossier off to our adoption agency today!! A few weeks ago, I learned that the US Immigration Department had lost our documents. We had been waiting a few weeks already for their approval. The documents were resubmitted, and our approval was pushed through. Today we received a letter from the US Immigration Department which states:

"It has been determined that you are able to furnish proper care to an orphan or orphans . . ."

All of our documents in our Dossier have to be notarized. You would be shocked at how many different ways there are to screw up a notary signature. We have had quite a few documents "re-notarized". In the case of one recommendation letter from the in-laws, they had to have this done FOUR times! The point of notarizing each signature is to certify that the signatures are accurate and not forged.

So now that we have our golden ticket from immigration, I made my way downtown to the Secretary of State's Office. Their job is just certify each notary's signature. One document was rejected (that was the 4th recommendation letter from Jim & Sherree) because the notary stamp didn't have accurate information on it. So Jim went to the bank again to notarize another recommendation letter. I then made a second trip downtown and got the letter approved by the Secretary of State.

So where do we go from here? The Dossier (picture above) is on its way to our agency in St. Louis. They will then send it out to be "bundled" a certain way so that it becomes one document. Once that is done, the dossier is sent to Washington, D.C. and a courier will take it to the Department of State. The DOS "certifies" the dossier by making sure the Secretary of State's signatures are accurate. After the DOS, the courier takes the dossier to the Ethiopia Embassy in DC and they put their stamp of approval on it.

Finally, after being in DC, the dossier is then sent to Ethiopia, and we will officially be on the waiting list for a little girl. Our agency just confirmed that the wait times have increased for infant girls. We can now expect to wait 12-15 months from the time our dossier lands in Ethiopia to the time we are "referred" a child. However, I think our wait will be shorter than that. Our agency has since switched orphanages, and the past two weeks our agency has been flooded with referrals. Also, we are getting past a huge group of people that had switched from the Vietnam program (when it closed last year) to the Ethiopia program -- all at the same time. That huge group has been waiting approximately 14 months for referrals, and the agency is close to getting through that big group. Once the parents in that group have received their referrals, I think the wait will become much shorter. I am guessing (hoping) that we may have our referral next fall sometime.

Anyway, we are moving forward. This is a long journey, full of paperwork gathering, certifications, frustrations with government offices, etc., but I can easily say that this is a piece of cake when I compare it to what we went through to have Wes & Cal. Thank you again for all of your support. I will update this in 2 weeks or so to let you know what our official number is on the wait list. As for now, enjoy your Thanksgiving! Adam, the boys, and I are headed to Sedona for some much needed R & R!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Halloween

Halloween was a lot of fun this year! This is the first time that the boys would say "Trick or Treat" and "Thank you". Previously, they wanted the candy, but they were much too shy to say anything.

This year they would run up to the houses and get the candy, and sometimes even request specific kinds of candy (oops). For the 3-4 days following Halloween, I don't even know why I bothered to dress them in regular clothes. Five minutes later, the clothes were off, and the costumes were back on.

Here are some pictures:

Friday, October 30, 2009

Florida Vacation

We had a great time in Florida, except we wished it had been a little cooler. Florida was having record heat and it was 91 degrees and about 350% humidity. My glasses would fog up when we got out of the car sometimes!

However, even with the heat, it was a lot of fun. We were visiting Adam's grandparents who live near Ft. Myers Beach. We rode their boats a few times, did a lot of swimming, went to the zoo, helped great-grandpa catch some fish, and played and played and played. One day, we went to Sanibel Island and rode bicycles around the island. The boys loved doing that. My sister, Christina, was also vacationing near the area with her family. We got to spend 3 days with them, and it was so nice to spend time with them.

Below are some photos of our trip:







We went to the Naples Zoo for some trick or treating.

This is the man that chose the seat by Cal. Calvin just used the man as an extra pillow.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

We Are Certified!!

After "patiently" waiting for 4 weeks, we are now officially certified by Arizona to adopt a baby girl from Ethiopia!!! Our documents have been sent to the US Immigration Office, and we are awaiting their certification. It normally takes Immigration approximately 4-6 weeks to make a decision. Once we receive the final decision from immigration, we can then submit our dossier to a bunch of places for different certifications/authentications before it lands in Ethiopia. My goal for our dossier to reach Ethiopia is December 1st. After that, we are officially on the waiting list!! There are currently 100 families from our adoption agency that are waiting for Ethiopian infants, and the wait time is 10-12 months right now.

There have been some truly amazing things happen over the past few months. It seems like whenever we have a fee to pay for the adoption, we unexpectedly get that exact amount through gifts from family, an unexpected check from the bank, or extra work from Adam's business. In addition, fingerprint results normally take 4 weeks to receive; however, the Immigration Office called us less than 24 hours after our prints were taken to let us know that they had received our results. The immigration officer was stunned, and she had no idea why our results snuck through to the front of the list. Our adoption coordinator was floored, and she had never heard of such a thing happening.

We truly thank you for your support and prayers. We know that God is definitely helping us out, and the "coincidences" are just shocking.

Below are some pictures from our recent trip to Sedona with Jenna & Zach:








Saturday, September 12, 2009

Trip to Indiana

video

We just got back from a great trip to Indiana! Sabrina took the boys for a week. We went to Holiday World for a few days, visited lots of animals at Adam's grandparent's house, went to Jump N Play, visited with family, etc. It was packed full of fun activities, and the boys had such a great time. Above is a video and below are some photos:






Sunday, August 23, 2009

Attachment Issues


This has been a crazy, adoption filled weekend. On Thursday evening, we were informed that our social worker would be coming by our house at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. We had already signed up to attend a two day seminar on international adoption (a requirement) that would go from 8-4 on Saturday and Sunday. Adam had a 16 hour shoot on Friday, and I also work on Fridays. With us being gone, how on earth were we going to be able to clean and baby proof the house for the social worker? Enter Jenna and Zach. Jenna helped me clean, and Zach shopped and installed some baby proofing locks for our exterior doors. Adam came home in the evening, and he started working on cleaning his office. We were up until 2 a.m. getting the house in perfect shape, and moving my office stuff out of the baby’s room. I even steam cleaned the carpets!!

We woke up at 4 hours later to get ready for our seminar. The entire way to/from the seminar and our lunch break, we were finishing up paperwork for the social worker. The seminar was so tiring, and afterwards, we rushed home for the social worker. We had dinner after the social worker left, and we crashed. Today, we woke up early again to finish off the seminar. We are tired! (Even though we are tired, we had a great night with Wes & Cal and posted a video of our playtime in the video section of this blog.)

We did learn some valuable information at the seminar. Even though your child may be under 2 that you adopt, it doesn’t mean that they will attach to you. Most likely, they won’t immediately attach, and you have to spend a minimum of a month working on this. Sometimes it can take years. You think back to when you were 18 months, and you probably don’t remember anything. However, when I look back to when my kids were 18 months -- they understood a lot. They were starting to talk, and they understood what was happening and what I was saying. So even though our child may not remember what has happened to her many years down the road, while she is going through the orphanage process, she does understand some things. She understands that her mother, her primary caregiver, is gone for whatever reason. She understands that she is in a new place where she doesn’t get very much attention, and she sees people coming and going. These places could be orphanages, foster homes, hospitals, transition homes, etc. Orphans can move around a lot when they are young. When we come to pick her up, she doesn’t understand that we are going to be her forever family. She understands that we are another person coming into her life that may walk away at any moment. That is really scary for a child. Just because you love and cuddle with an infant, doesn’t mean they give you that love back. Sometimes infants are scared to attach to anyone, and some don’t understand what attachment is -- so they think you are no different than the cashier at Wal-mart.

There are scary stories, and great stories of adoption. Being educated will help us raise a healthy, adopted child. Our instructor discussed a period of time, at least a month, where only Adam and I are the primary caregivers for our daughter. No one else can feed, bathe, or change our daughter. Our parents and siblings may briefly hold our child at times, but it is best that it stays between Adam and I for the first month. If our daughter is young enough, we are strongly encouraged to “wear” our child as we walk around the house throughout the day. This helps establish that we are going to be there for our daughter. It helps make her feel safe, and understand our permanency. This idea was completely foreign to us, but it makes sense.

We also learned that you need to “spoil” your child for the first few months. Having them sleep in their own room immediately is scary because they never have. Having a child “cry it out” isn’t good because that triggers the abandonment all over again. Again, this is not something we had initially planned to do, but it makes sense. We were on a strict schedule with Cal & Wes, and we let them cry it out in their crib. I see how things should be different this time around. Before establishing rules, we must establish trust.

So even though the seminar felt never-ending, and we needed lots of sugar to stay awake, it was well worth it. We also made a few friends with other families adopting from Ethiopia. One of the families has twin boys who were born 2 days prior to Wes & Cal.

As for the social worker, we have one visit out of the way, and one to go. Normally they can’t really smile, laugh, or show much emotion. A lot of parents worry that they won’t pass. However, our social worker was extremely nice and stated a few times that she was impressed with our stability, reasons for choosing a girl, etc. While never stating it, she indicated that her report would be a positive one. We will meet with her again in the next week or two before she finalizes the report. The next meeting will consist of separate interviews of Adam and I.

We are moving along. The boys will go to their 4 year check-up tomorrow, and the doctor will provide us with a letter for our dossier describing their health. This is the last document that we have to turn in to the agency at this time. Once we have our last social worker visit, it takes about 2 weeks to write the report, and 2 weeks to get approved by the State Court. It takes a little longer for us to get approved by immigration. Once this is done, we then submit our dossier to our adoption agency for finalizing. We are getting closer.

P.S. The picture above this blog is a picture of our daughter’s room. Once we are approved by the courts, we are going to start painting.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork!


I cannot believe all of the paperwork we have to go through in the next 3 months. Sabrina has spent HOURS every single night filling out paperwork.

We have so much financial history documents that have to go to the home study agency and the adoption agency. We are trying to get a CPA to verify our income; gather our bills/expense info, tax returns, etc; and fill out our declarations to show our assets/liabilities and income/debt.

We have so many medical documents to complete. Adam and I both went to the doctor this week, and she had to fill out a two page form on our history and our ability to adopt. She also has to type a letter on our behalf to include in our dossier. Adam and I have been tested for TB, diabetes, HIV, etc., and we are waiting on all of those results before the doctor can finish this paperwork. In addition to our doctor, the boys have to go to their doctor later this month for the exact same thing!

We have so much government paperwork to fill out. We have to get our local and federal criminal history information, and we also have to go through Child Services databases to confirm we haven’t had any complaints against us. We have had our fingerprints taken, and the State will run our prints in the next few weeks. Next month, we will have our fingerprints taken again for the US Immigration Services. We have submitted adoption applications to both the state and federal courts. Once they get our fingerprint, criminal history, and home study information they will then approve or deny our applications.

If that weren’t enough, we still have so much paperwork to fill out for the adoption agency and our home study agency. Our social worker wanted us to type a 10 page autobiography - EACH! It took us 5 hours to answer all of the questions. We have also filled out a 6 page document addressing race/cultural issues and how we will/have handle(d) situations. We have a 32 page workbook that we have to go through regarding interracial adoption, and we have to answer questions on different scenarios presented.

We are waiting on our social worker to review our autobiographies and set up our initial visit. We have to spend a minimum of four hours with her, over at least two visits, before she will write our report. Once the report, and all of the other documents are in, we then have to get everything notarized --- even the page that contains photographs of our house. The notarized documents then go to the Secretary of State’s office to confirm that the notaries are valid. Then we have to ship them off to our adoption agency to be bundled and packaged into our dossier. From there they go to Washington D.C. for approval at our embassy and Ethiopia’s embassy. Once that is done, the documents FINALLY go to Ethiopia -- and then we wait for 6-12 months (closer to a 12 month wait right now) for our child referral.

Getting everything together has been quite stressful for me, but it won’t be long before the paperwork is done and the waiting begins.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

We're Adopting a GIRL!


Well, we are only 1 week into this, and we have already made a change on our application. Under “gender preference”, we have changed our selection from “either” to “GIRL”!!!!

Adam and I have loved being parents of boys, and at first, we were leaning towards that again. However, the more we thought about it, we both had secret wishes to have a girl. On the selfish side, I see myself styling my little girl’s hair in all sorts of fun styles, painting fingernails, etc. On a more serious side, we believe that a girl will transition better into our family. We have always worried that if we ever adopted, would the adopted child feel even more “alone” because not only are they not biological children of ours, but they are trying to fit into a family with tight-knit, twin boys. We worry that if we adopt a boy, he may feel left out at times because he doesn’t have that best bud twin. When the boys go to church or the YMCA, they always play separately with other children, but we don’t want to take that chance of our adopted child feeling like an outsider. I think it will be much easier for a girl to transition into our family. In addition, this would explain why she would have her own room, no hand me down toys, etc.

Adam has talked to Wes and Cal a little bit about getting a brother or sister. He was simply explaining what that meant because they don’t even understand what it means to be twins. They think any two boys together are twins. Wes and Cal picked the brother/sister concept up quickly, and a few days later Cal asked me if he was going to get the baby now. I didn’t understand what he meant, so I asked him to repeat it. Same question. I asked, “Do you mean when are you going to get a baby brother or sister?” He said, “Yeah.” I explained it would be a long time, and I was really shocked that he was bringing this up. Wes joined in on the conversation and clarified that it was going to be a baby sister. Cal said he wanted a baby brother and a baby sister. I explained that we would just get one baby. The boys talked amongst themselves and announced that they were going to have a baby sister. That settled it. Application was changed.

The Ethiopia program director stated that we have to get our girl preference approved by our social worker. I don’t see why we wouldn’t be approved to request a girl, but it is ultimately up to them. Keep your fingers crossed!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

We're Adopting!


Dear Friends and Family,

We have some exciting news to share with you! We have been approved to adopt a child from Ethiopia!

Go ahead and take a few minutes to get back up off the floor, we understand. As most of you know, we have struggled with infertility. After undergoing infertility treatment for over a year, with no success, we decided to try a different procedure — and make that our last attempt. Adam and I knew that we did not have to biologically have children for us to become parents. We obtained information on adoption, and if our last fertility surgery did not work, we would start the adoption process.

The surgery worked, and we became pregnant with twins. The pregnancy and delivery were difficult, and our boys were born premature. Sabrina’s doctor recommended that she avoid future pregnancy due to the internal scarring, and her family physician stated that it would defy all laws of science if she were able to get pregnant again. We never struggled with our doctor’s advice because we knew that adoption was always an option.

Over the last 4 years, whenever anyone asks if we are going to have more kids, we always tell them that we may adopt in the future. A lot has changed in our lives this past year, and the past few months, the idea of adoption has been on our minds a lot more than before. This summer, Sabrina has really struggled with the boys growing up and getting ready to start school, and we once again were reminded that our family does not have to stop at four just because we can’t conceive.

We began looking into adoption again, and we felt a calling towards international adoption. The boys have a good friend, Mia, who was adopted from Vietnam three years ago. We began looking into the agency that Mia’s parents used, and we read about adopting from South America, Russia/Ukraine, China, Korea, and Ethiopia. Adam and I both came to the conclusion that Ethiopia was the best fit for us. Right now, it is the easiest country to adopt from, and Ethiopia has so much poverty, hunger, and other hardship. One in six children die by the age of five, and the life expectancy is only 46 years old.

While there are still so many uncertainties, we know that we have made the right decision. We wanted to explain to everyone our decision, as well as the process, so that you can have more of an understanding of what this means for our family — both immediate and extended. We will no longer be a family of just one race.

The first question is simply what do Ethiopian children look like? They are black, African children. Some can have lighter brown skin, and others can have very dark skin. Once the adoption is complete, we will become an interracial family. We are speaking to people who are already in this situation, reading heavily into both the racial and cultural background of our child, and we are also attending a weekend seminar regarding interracial families.

We have been approved by Children’s Hope International. They are an adoption agency based out of Missouri. They will handle our international adoption; however, Oasis Adoption Services in Tucson will handle our home study and Arizona court approval. We are currently in the “document gathering” stage. It is amazing how many documents you need, and how everything has to be worded just right and even our recommendation letters from friends have to be notarized. We will have to go through criminal checks by our local police, child protective services, and a fingerprint clearance through the federal databases. In addition to gathering documents, we are also working with a social worker from Oasis to conduct our home study. The social worker will meet with us, our boys, and they will also speak with our friends. They will evaluate our house, financial stability, medical stability, etc. This process should take approximately three months if everything goes smoothly. At that time, the social worker will have her recommendation, and our case will be presented in front of a juvenile court judge in Arizona. Once we are cleared by the judge, we can obtain the visa for our child. We hope to have the first stage completed by the first of November.

The second stage is waiting on a referral. Children’s Hope International works with an orphanage in Ethiopia called “House of Hope”. They receive orphaned children, and they test them for disease. If a child is healthy, then they “refer” the child to a family. When you get referred, you will get to see your child via photographs, and receive medical history and birth history (if this is known) from the orphanage. At that point, you accept your child. The wait to be referred begins after the Arizona court approves us, and it is between 6-12 months long. These are rough numbers based on how many children are in the orphanage.

The third stage is approval by the Ethiopian government. All of the documents gathered in stage one, and approved by our courts, will become certified and sent to Ethiopia in our dossier. If we meet the requirements, the government will then approve us for the adoption prior to us arriving in Ethiopia. This process takes approximately 2-4 months.

The final stage is the best one! Once we receive approval from the Ethiopian government, Adam and I will travel to Ethiopia to pick up our child from the orphanage. We will stay there for approximately one week, and we will appear in court during this time. At that point, we get to bring our baby home with the promise that we will provide yearly pictures and updates from our social worker to the Ethiopian government until the child reaches age 15.

If everything goes smoothly, we should have our child approximately 12 months from now. Again, that time frame can be pushed up or back depending on many factors. We have requested a child between the ages of infant (6 months is the youngest they will allow) to 18 months. We have not requested a specific gender.

We hope that you will support us in our journey. We promise to keep you updated, and just ask that you continue to pray for our family during this process. We encourage any questions you may have.

Love,

Adam & Sabrina