Sunday, June 29, 2008

And Now the Waiting Begins...

Well, that's it! All my paperwork (for now!) is done and off in the mail. My dossier is in the agencies hands and Friday I received my paperwork to complete my package that goes off to the US Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. Needless to say, it also went OUT on Friday as well! So now the fun begins.

So what to do while waiting? Hmmm... as you've seen, I am NOT patient ;) Time to start the Russian presents, room preparation, baby arrival prep and studying up on attachment techniques. More on that in a minute.

Did she say Russian presents??? Yup -- it's customary to bring presents for the workers in Russia. Or essentially anyone who touches you and your child along the way. This is just like shopping for party favors! A challenge! Let's find the nicest gifts at the most bargain prices possible! Suggestions from previous/current traveling families include purses, cosmetics, wallets, gloves, perfumes, coffee, and chocolates.

The jinx factor... I have really been hesitant to get started on his room because I don't want to "jinx" anything! Unfortunately, if I am not careful -- I could be left with child coming home, no time to do anything and no room prepared! So it really is time to start this phase. And there is lots to do...

So in the vain of the two above mentioned items... my friends Carrie and Rhonda and I went to the magic place on Saturday... IKEA! The little guy received two white 6 drawer dressers (1 tall, 1 long), a rug for the center of his room and a lamp that dims with NO clicking noises. Thanks to Carrie for the no clicking noises tip!! I also made a pit stop on the way home and bought some clearance purses at TJMaxx (two Lauren, 1 Clariborne and 1 Tommy), clearance cosmetic gift sets at Ulta (5), and 4th of July clearance clothes @ Old Navy - too add to his patriotic collection. Clothes are a struggle as I really don't know how old he'll be or what size. While I have requested under 24 months, that is a big range, and babies coming from an orphanage tend to be much smaller. I have also eBayed some nice cashmere lined gloves - so my present collection is growing!!

Finally on to Attachment tips. With the background they've had, you may have heard that some adopted children struggle with attachment to their new families. For some, there is a feeling that this new mom will leave them too... I came across a great site today and wanted to post one of the articles I read - as it may impact my family and friends.

The site (and may others) recommend that you limit "others" holding your newly adopted child for at least 6 weeks (some say 3 months). This helps with the attachment bonding between new parent and child. The reason I want to post this is so people understand the whys and don't think that new parents are just being overly cautious or scared... here's the clip:

Another adoptive mom shares her story:
I am hoping not to offend anyone -- just wanting to share our experiences with no holding. We have three children adopted from Korea. With our first two, we did very little reading about attachment and thought we would just love our children to pieces and all would be well. Our first two arrived at 4 1/2 months of age. My husband is from a large family; they love to pass the baby and believe the child should be content and snuggle with each one. This is what our two sons experienced soon after their arrival - - one struggled and cried and the other seemed indifferent. I felt sad and sick after each visit.

With our third adoption, our daughter was 6 1/2 months at arrival. Before her arrival, we read about and researched attachment. I asked our social worker about no holding for six weeks. She said she had seen wonderful transitions with those who had done this. With the loss and uncertainty our children have experienced before coming to us, not allowing others to hold our child made sense. Before our daughter's arrival, we informed family and friends that we would be the only ones to hold our daughter for six weeks. Because we had allowed our first two to be held, we explained that our daughter was older and we felt we needed to do this to help with her adjustment and attachment. We knew some might not be accepting, yet it wasn't about what other people needed; this was what our child needed. Our daughter's adjustment has been remarkable in comparison to our sons'. We can't know if this was due to no holding initially, personality, or the other attachment methods we have implemented. Our daughter was never anxious and upset when others visited during those first weeks. Our sons were. My seventy-year-old father was so struck by the difference in adjustment with our third child, he remarked that maybe we shouldn't be so anxious to let others hold our daughter after six weeks! (a. 4.5mo, 4.5mo, 6.5mo, FC)

If anyone has any other "Attachment" tips -- I am always open to reading/listening!! Feel free to pass them along!!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Pete & Repeat sit on a fence. Pete falls off -- who is left?


OK so a couple weeks ago it was birth certificate palozza, now it's dossier palozza! I reported earlier this week that I had mailed my Vladivostok documents off to my agency on Monday before leaving for a work trip to Chicago. Now typically when I drop something in the mail to her (she's just in Ann Arbor, 2 hours away), she gets it the VERY next day. A long mail time is two days.

Being the type A personality that I am, I emailed my agency Tuesday night from my hotel room just checking in to make sure that my documents had arrived. Response was -- not Tuesday, should be Wednesday. OK, no problem. USPS goes a bit slower on 80 degree days perhaps. So Wednesday mid-day I get another email... NOPE! No mail. OK, no big deal, it will be there Thursday. Again with the type A, as soon as I landed in Detroit on Thursday, I called and guess what. NO MAIL again on Thursday. By now I am hyperventilating. Not only is it my documents but there are also 3 checks inside... YIPES.

Silly me. I debated and debated on Monday before sending it off. Do I need to send it Overnight with the tracking #? Nah, I send things through USPS ALL the time for work and NEVER do I have a problem. So after hearing no mail on Thursday, I drove like a mad woman home, re-printed EVERYTHING, signed EVERYTHING and rushed off to Staples (back down to Pt Huron). After waiting for what seemed like forever (I have the patience of a nat, and they were slower than molasses), the man at Staples got my package finished JUST AS UPS was arriving to do the last pick up of the day. $25 later -- my package arrived safely this morning at my agency. Whew! Plenty of time to still get apostilled today.

So if you are following along with the Murphy's Law philosophy, guess what arrived via USPS this afternoon? Yup, my original package!! Of course! The overnight was just my "insurance". But at least I know the checks are safe. Hysterical. Gotta have some fun along this crazy ride!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Big News Day @ Lighthouse

Big news at for Lighthouse Adoption families today -- two different families got the official call today that they are off to Moscow! And they are headed out this weekend! Good luck to all those traveling.

In other news, my dossier package has officially left my possession. Before leaving for Chicago this AM, I sent everything off to the agency yesterday afternoon. From here, it will join a couple other documents from my agency and then it's off to Vladivostok! (Technically the Primorskiy Kray region) My i600a form should potentially go out in the mail this week as well. As soon as I have my copy of the home study (which is complete!!) - that document will leave my possession as well.

After that - it's all in someone else's hands and I enter the list of the "waiting"!!

Thanks for all your thoughts -- it helps make this anxious time better!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Wow -- what a weekend! I just got back from my 20th class reunion. Needless to say, it was a BLAST!! First, I have a really great group of friends from the class that I STILL keep in touch with. Second, it was very cool to hook up with people I haven't seen in years and meet some of their spouses that were equally as cool.

Plus I always get nostalgic when back in the old Mountain town. Say what you want, but Mt. Pleasant rocks!

So, my agency contact is also back from vacation, and this week will be a big week! My i600a will go in to the BCIS AND my dossier will go over to Vladivostok! Wish me luck -- I am going to officially enter the list of the "waiting!!"

Monday, June 16, 2008

Princess and the Pea

Anyone need a queen size mattress and box spring? Heck, I'll even throw in the frame (no headboard, though, sorry!) As I get ready to start contemplating a baby's room - I need to find a home for the guest room bed. It's not exactly new -- however, it's pretty much been guest room material since it's arrival (translation, hasn't been slept on much!)

Let me know!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

My Home Study is.... SOUP

Since today is Father's Day, I thought I'd use on of my father's favorite sayings to honor my home study! If something is "done" it's "SOUP". So... my home study is SOUP!!

Kassie, my social worker, came up today for my 2nd visit. That combined with the phone interview we've done - it's all set and waiting to be notarized! My fingerprints should be finalized early this week and it's history!

From here, we get a bunch of notarized copies and send them off with a) i-600a form to the govt. and b) Vladivostok with my first dossier to Russia! I spent the early part of the weekend gathering and signing all the needed documents for the Vladivostok (or Vladi as Rhonda now refers to it). Everything is printed and ready to go including the picture files they require. They want to see pictures of the family (or in this case - me!), the car, my house: inside/outside front and back, including the babies future room, even if it's not ready. Which, needless to say, mine is NOT.

That's the other kicker -- I am trying not to get TOO far ahead of myself. It's the old jinx fear factor. Call me crazy (it won't be the first time), I know - but it's my weird fear. And I am not the only one. Lorien at Lighthouse told me when she adopted her daughter, she finally broke down one weekend and painted the bedroom - and wham, the next day she found out she had a 3 month delay! SEE....

So that's the news of the day. Happy Father's Day to all you father's out there (including mine!).

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Birth Certificate Palozza

Anyone one want to buy a genuine, duplicate, Amy Repp birth certificate? I now have an overrun of certified, official birth certificates!!

When I first got started with this process, in all the reading I had done, I knew you needed 3 certified copies (officially stamped) copies of your birth certificate (and FYI - also your wedding and or divorce certificates if applicable) for the process. Being the proactive doobie (how's that for a Romper Room term!) that I am, I was pro-active and starting looking at my options. I knew I'd be in Mt. Pleasant for the big 20th class reunion on 6/20, so I had that as a back-up plan. Online people suggested using So I checked them out as a quicker option. $47 a piece. Yipes. Lorien from my agency suggested that I go to a State of Michigan website and you can order additional certificates there. Great site - very easy and I was off with my $26 original order (much better) and 2 additionals @ $12 each. A grand total of $50 for 3 instead of $150 was a winner to me!

So this week as I am nearing the completion of my home study, guess what I am still waiting for? You got it... the birth certificates. After joining the ranks of the 21st century and going to online banking, I KNEW the state had cashed my check two weeks ago - so I knew I was in progress. But no certificates.

Wednesday of this week (wow, that was just yesterday). I was scheduled for a meeting at work in Stanwood, Michigan. My trusty-rusty Garmin route took me straight through Mt. Pleasant! So I figured, what the heck and on the way home I stopped by the Isabella County Courthouse and within 5 minutes walked out with 3 certified copies of my birth certificate for the winning price of $16. What a bargain! $10 for the original and $3 each additional copy. Feeling so proud of myself, I sent the copy off to Lighthouse, knowing all MY end of the paperwork was done and they didn't have to wait on me.

Murphy's Law - guess what arrived in the mail today :). You got it -- 3 more copies of my birth certificate! So, I am now swimming in birth certificates and still have spent LESS than I would have at I'll never be able to say -- "I don't know if I have a copy of my birth certificate..." I am debating selling two on eBay... you never know they could be worth something some day!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I'm NO Angelina Jolie (thank goodness)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008:

WOW -- such a blank page! Where to start? I guess as Julie Andrews once sang, I'll start at the very beginning... a very good place to start.

A month or so back, after the Texas Sect Crisis, I started joking with my friend Rhonda that I could adopt a "Sect baby" (one of the many children removed from the Texas compound that were displaced first in an arena) and we laughed it off. Then Myanmar/Burma cyclone hit and once again I joked to Rhonda that I could adopt a Myanmar baby. Again, we laughed it off (not the cyclone mind you - the adoption statement!). Finally, the earthquake in China hit and I found myself once again remarking that "I could adopt a Chinese baby". Rhonda finally said to me, "you keep joking about this, but why don't you look into it". So I did... and the quest begins.

So I started the BASIC research.
- Domestic vs. International? Too many horror stories on the domestic side for me. I know lots of people that have domestically adopted and it's worked out. BUT... too many scary stories!
- What countries do people adopt from? Lots of options here, but #1 and #2 are typically Russia and China. The Ukraine pops into the top 5 and I do have a very good connection in my friend Anna Manko, alas, both China and the Ukraine do not accept single women (foiled again!). The more and more I read about the Russian programs, I knew I had a connection! And I still have a Russian connection for Anna...
- What's the process? LOTS of time, patience and paperwork. Basically in a nutshell you have your US paperchase: Agency selection, Home study, and federal forms i-600a; then you have your Russian paperchase: dossier of documents (here's my life) that goes to Russia to be matched with a child; then you get a referral of a child; you visit the child and accept (or deny) the referral; go home and wait for a court date; go BACK to Russia and go to court to receive final, legal approval. I am oversimplifying this - but that's pretty much the gist.
- How do you select an agency? OK this one was HARD for me. For all of those who know me, you know that when I decide to do something, I want to do it NOW! It's the Verruca Salt in me. But my mom was scaring me half to death with stories from Dateline/PrimeTime/20-20/60 Minutes (insert news magazine show name here) of international adoption fraud and these people who lost thousands of $$$. So I knew I had to do my research. Most of the websites that refer to people's opinion's of adoption agencies have been shut down - opinions are just that, and if they are bad... companies obviously want to fight to clear their name. So all the research is "underground" as I like to say. (thank you Rhonda for helping me find this) has a great forum for international adoption. One of their posts is basically people posting the agency they have experience with and you can send them a private message to get their feedback. Gads this was still really hard and stressful. As many people that I found that liked agency A - I found almost as many who hated, knew someone who hated or met a family that wouldn't recommend them. Throughout the process I kept hearing about Lighthouse Adoptions here in Michigan (another bonus) and honestly, I couldn't find ONE person who had a negative experience with Lighthouse. I immediately loved my contact Lorien, who is SO patient with me and my 1000 questions. And would ya know it - she's adopted herself (twice) as a single woman. So after all that stressing, my decision was relatively easy.

And off we went. I applied to Lighthouse who was also going throughout the process of getting licensed to do the Home Study (social worker visits your house/interviews you a couple of times to sign off on your adoption) and I could potentially be Lighthouse's guinea pig - first Home Study. Planets aligned, and their approval came through THAT weekend. So my initial steps have been moving at a LIGHTNING pace. Believe it or not, this weekend I should have all my paperwork in for the Home Study and just waiting for the final copy to send in to the BCIS (Bureau of Citizenship & Immigration Services; formerly known as INS). They approve you to bring an international adoptee into the country and make them your immediate kin.

From there it's onto the Russian paperwork. Lorien at Lighthouse had a couple options this week when I spoke with her. Here's the plan so far. After the i600a is sent to BCIS with the Home Study approval, we send my Russian dossier (paperwork) to a region called Vladivostok. This is the FAR, FAR eastern part of Russia, almost to Korea. They accept the paperwork while your federal approval is pending. The potential is that I could receive a referral for a little guy (more on that in a minute) while waiting for the i-171H (what the approval of the i-600a is known as). Then if the approval comes and I still haven't received the i-171K, we also submit to Moscow. Rhonda is pushing for Moscow -- they have Marriott's, Pizza Hut and more well known tourista sites. Oh yeah, she's volunteered to go on at least trip #1. Any other takers??

So backpedaling a bit, YES, I did say little "guy". I know what you're thinking -- but you have so many girls in the family. Well, that's exactly it!! If Gramma Clarkson were still alive, she'd have 10 Great Grand kids currently and #10 was the FIRST boy (Logan Miles Levitt). In addition to that, there are more Russian boys available for a variety of reasons (some say a stigma in Russia for a Russian man to raise another man's son, and most of the US families want lil girls). Out of Lighthouse's 11 families in the works, I am the ONLY one on the list of for a boy - the rest want girls. I am open to name suggestions... so submit your entries!

That's it for now. After long decision and telling the same people the same things over and over again, I decided to create this to pass information along to anyone interested. Plus, I have been a complete SPONGE on other adoptive families blogs/websites, so if my ramblings can help someone else... so be it!