Saturday, October 23, 2004

Halloween Scare!!! - 10/23/2004

Is it a trick or a treat? We were minding our own business reading the China message board for our group (103) that we belong to when we saw something that caught our eye. Apparently there is a gentleman named George who has made some predictions about travel times for various groups in the past. His success level is surprisingly good, but that could be owing to the fact that he is really good friends with the director of our facilitators. Someone asked if George had any particular prediction for our group, #103. George responded with "still working on g-103 predictions...possibly Easter but maybe adjusted in a couple of weeks."

Easter...Easter 2005??? Could he mean the Christian Easter in March??? Maybe he means the Russian Orthodox Easter in June. March would be three whole months before we were prepared to even receive a phone call let alone travel to China!

After thinking about this for a few hours, we decided that surely this was not possible. Everything we have heard and read in the past 10 months has stated that China is taking between 7-8 months to complete referrals once they receive the documents. Besides, group #97 just got their referrals and group #96 is still waiting for their travel calls. That leaves five more groups ahead of us. June/July is looking like the right time. Then....

A message gets posted from Norman, the director of the agency. Norman states that he actually has orders for groups 96 and 98 to travel and is waiting for orders for group 97. He hopes that all three groups can travel together on Nov. 12th. That only leaves four groups between us and them. Uh-oh. March doesn't seem so unlikely now.

We're not ready! We're not ready! No registry, no baby shower, no baby room, no furniture, no...well, you get the point. At least at this point the child would have a name. Somewhere to sleep might be better but a name will have to do.

We have decided not to panic yet as things may yet change. We will keep you posted!

Happy Halloween!!!

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

We're Officially "Pregnant"! - 10/12/2004

Ladies and gentlemen, start your clocks: WE ARE DTC!!!!!!

On Friday, October 8, 2004 we recieved a letter from our facillitators,USAA, telling us that we have been assigned to Group 103. A quick e-mail to those who have gone before us on the USAA web group, China 33, confirms that this letter is sent out after your dossier has been sent to China! So our paperwork is now in the hands of the China Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA), and we are in the baby queue!

While I waited for Tracy back on July 2nd, I chatted with Yasmine who says this is how it's gonna go:

We get the letter with our Group #
We wait 6-9 months (on avarage)
We will recieve 3 phone calls:
1) from Yasmine telling us that the CCAA has notified them that our Group has been assigned and the referrals are on their way
2) from Tracy telling us that we're parents and that our daughter's photo & info are being Fed Ex'd overnight to us
3) from Yasmine telling us that China has issued our Visas and what our travel date is.

There is about 2 weeks between calls 1 & 2, and anywhere from 1 week to 6 weeks between calls 2 & 3. When we get call 3, we'll have about 10-14 days before we leave.

That's the good news. The bad news is that there isn't going to be a whole lot to tell you for the next 6-9 months. No sonograms, no aminocentisis, no Braxton Hicks, no bulging belly, no morning sickness...just nothing - it's a paper pregnancy. So we'll share any information that happens to come our way, but hopefully we'll start having alot more to say come next May. So stop by when you can, and set a reminder on Outlook to begin checking regularly in the spring!

We'll leave you with the Dossier Prayer, which kinda says it all:

Dossier Prayer
Oh God, you know your children's needs and the desires of our hearts better than we can speak them. We pray for your blessing on this sheaf of papers, now winging its way to the other side of the world.
This stack of documents tells so much--yet so little--of who we are. Between the lines, behind the official seals, our deepest dreams are written.
God, you made miracles of ordinary things: quails and manna, bread and wine. Take these ordinary papers and use them to guide us to our miracle.
Bless the work of those who bring families together: the agency staff and facilitators; the government bureaucrats here and abroad; the orphanage officials and caregivers.
Bless the birth family whose child's future we will be privileged to share, and comfort them in their sorrow.
Bless all the adoptive parents and children who wait for their papers to move and their miracles to occur.
And most especially bless the child, born or unborn, who will be our child forever.
This dossier is the link between our lives and hers, oh God. It is the symbol of our hope--the instrument that will bring our family together. Speed it on its way, and sustain our faith during the difficult months to come.
~Julie Higginbotham, Chicago

Friday, September 03, 2004

The End (of the Paperchase) is Near - 9/3/2004

2 Certified birth certificates, one for each of us: check
1 Certified marriage license: check
1 Notarized copy of a homestudy by a licensed CA Social Worker: check
1 Signed petition to adopt a child(ren) from the Peoples Republic of China: check
1 Signed financial statement: check
2 Medical forms certifying our good health, signed by a licensed MD: check
1 Signed letter from our credit union verifying we have the money for the adoption: check
2 Certified clearance letters from the County Sheriff, one for each: check
2 Letters from our employers stating what we do & how much we make: check
1 Certified copy of Jeff's divorce papers from psycho hose-beast ex-wife: check
8 Passport pictures, 2 sets of 2 each: check
9 Photographs of us as a couple: check
2 Copies of the first 2 pages of our passports, 1 each: check

This small pile of paper has taken six months and several thousand dollors to amass. This morning I carefully slipped it into a large manilla envelope with our names neatly written on the front in large bold sharpie. Then it, and I, waded through the sea of insane California drivers whom all insisted on driving the speed limit when it wasn't necessary (the cops had already nabbed holiday weekend drivers and were cheerfully writing them tickets by the time we went whizzing past).
I arrived in downtown LA at the Federal Building, cleared security (cell phone on the table, purse in the x-ray, you through the metal detctor), and headed to the second floor - room 2050 - the land of Criminals, Cops & Illegals (see post on 7/01/04). This time when I arrived, there was no armed guard, no parollees...nobody. You could hear the crickets chirp. So I signed in at window 10 and took a seat. A few minutes later an illegal Mexican woman (in CA? What a shock) and her pushy 9 year old son/translator arrived hollering for someone to come assist them. A moment later, an officious black woman, her attitude proceeding her, came out and distainfully said, "Can I help you?" then she glanced over and saw me, held up her hand in front of the translator and said, "Wait. Can I help you?" not quite so distainfully. I replied that I had already signed in at window 10. She told me someone would be with me shortly, and a split second later the nice girl we talked to 9 weeks ago appeared. She checked my name, asked to see my ID, and then handed me an envelope that was taped to the desk; "There you go. Thank you." and she walked away.
Inside was the last piece of paper: Form 171-H Notice of Favorable Determination Concerning Application For Advance Processing of Orphan Petition. This one piece of paper that says the United States of America has decided we are fit to be parents, and has forwarded a request for a visa for our child to the National Visa Center in Guangzhou, China.
I will admit to being nervous as I drove to Monterey Park. What if we had missed something? What if they had scooted up the Sept. cutoff because of the holiday weekend and we missed it?
It was quiet at USAA when I arrived. Yasmine, who answers the phone & handles the travel arrangments for the parents, informed me that Tracy was at lunch but due back in 10-15 minutes and I was welcome to wait. I waited. Tracy returned and began sifting through the contents of the envelope and rearranging documents. She gave me back Jeff's divorce papers- they aren't needed. The forms we were given for our physical exams were the old ones, and we need to have the new ones filled out with the same information. Jeff's employment letter had to be re-done because it did not state his position. Other than that, we were good! We made the September cutoff, so our Dossier will go to China (DTC) in October!

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

A Red Letter Day - 9/1/2004

Color me stunned. A United States government employee actually called me back!!!! I was so shocked I could hardly speak.
The uniteligable voice on the voice mail I left the message on turned out to belong to Juanita, the nice lady mentioned in the paperwork from our adoption agency. I explained to Juanita that we had been waiting for 9 weeks. She wanted to know if our fingerprints had been done. I assured her that they had been done the same day. She asked for my last name and put me on hold so she could go find the paperwork. Ordinarily, you might be expecting that I was typing this while I was on hold (still- 6 hours later), but miraculously she (the same woman!) came back on the phone not 5 minutes later! Juanita was actally very helpful, and able to tell us that the FBI was where the delay was, and that she could have it done by next week. I guess the disappointment came through in my voice when I told her that that was ok, because we would have missed the Sept. deadline with our facilitators by then, so not to rush. There was a short pause, and then she said, "Well, I could expedite it for you... you could come down & pick it up Friday...would that be ok?" Ok? Fabulous!
Tonight will now be very busy: we need to make last minute adjustments to our financial statement, select and print nine pictures, and review all our documents so that as soon as I have the 171 I can drive the whole package to USAA in Montery Park!

A Bead of Sweat Upon Our Brows - 9/1/2004

So! As of tomorrow, Thursday September 2, it will have been nine weeks since we filed our paperwork with the INS. We were told six to eight weeks, but most people we talked to said, "Yeah, they always tell you six to eight weeks, but really it's more like four to six." So much for that theroy. Apparently, if we lived elsewhere in the nation, we could have recieved our 171 in as little as 8 days- 10 at the most! But NOOOOOOOOOO!!!! We live in the land of the illegal aliens who are, doubtless, clogging up the system.
Somewhere in the back of your mind I can hear you saying, "So it's nine or ten weeks- relax- it will get here." And you're right (I hope), but today is Sept 1 and in four days our facilitators, USAA, will close the window for September paperwork which will go to China in October. Which means, that if we don't get that 171 damn quick, and rush our paperwork to USAA, we've lost another month and our dossier won't go to China until November, we won't get a referral until next June or July, and we won't get our daughter until next fall. It's not the end of the world, but it is dissappointing.
I called Hemlata, the director of our adoption agency, to ask if she had a phone number for the INS and she told me to use the one provided in my paperwork. So I did. At nine a.m. the line goes to voice mail for some woman who says her name so fast you can't understand it. I left a message explaining my plight, but I'm not holding my breath that I'll hear back from her. I'm going to post on the bulletin board for China adoptions to see if someone out there knows another number. We'll keep you posted.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

The Accidental Adoption - 7/10/2004

An Accidental Adoption

Have you ever noticed that you hear all the time about "accidental"
pregnancies, but never about couples who experience "accidental"
adoptions? Can you imagine:

Honey, sit down. I have some news for you.

What is it?

Well, I don't know how to say this, so I'll just come out with it.
I went out to the mailbox today and ... well, we got an I-171H.

A what?!? An I171H? As in, we're going to have another baby?!?

It looks that way.

But how? We've been so careful! I put away all the blank I600A
forms. Didn't you hide our homestudy update?

Of course I did. But don't forget, there was that one night...

What night? (pauses) Ohhh, that night. But it was only once. We
were just messing around. I didn't print clearly. I didn't even use
ink! (pauses again) But it was kind of fun.

(giggles) It was, wasn't it? I'll never forget how cute you looked
getting your fingerprints.

So now we've got our I-171H, eh? But that doesn't always mean
you'll adopt, does it? I mean, shouldn't you see the agency or
something, make sure everything's okay?

I already did.


I'm five documents along.

Five documents! And they're all notarized, certified and
authenticated okay?

Just great. There was one small scare when the agency couldn't see
the notary's middle initial, but it showed up just fine under the
magnifying glass.

Thank God. And you, honey? Are you feeling okay?

I'm feeling fine. As long as I know you're happy about this.

Happy? I'm thrilled! It's always a shock at first when something
like this happens, but of course I'm happy!

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Criminals, Cops, & Illegals.. OH MY! - 7/01/2004

At long last, we had finally managed to get Karen the Social Worker all the last minute required paperwork, and a $10 check for notarization, and a Fed Ex #; so if she could just get 10 minutes she could print & sign our Home Study, have it Notarized, and Fed Ex it so we could journey to the INS. She was supposed to Fed Ex it Monday. Didn't happen. So we called Tuesday, whined a little, and explained that we were hoping to go to LA on Thursday. She came through, and the Home Study arrived yesterday!

This meant that the time had now come to fill out the rather confusing I600-A form, which is the Advance Processing of Orphan Petition. I had identified the problem questions months ago when I downloaded the form from the INS website, and had even had the forethought to ask Hemlata our Agency Director the answers to these questions. Unfortunately, I had asked these questions via e-mail at work and last week my computer made some hideous noises, and began belching smoke- my hardrive is toast. So, I had to call Hemlata and ask them again...then I had to confess that, no, I hadn't backed up the info and I had also misplaced the portion of the information packet telling us where to go. I was chastized, and promised to keep better track of the child when we get her.

So, we got up at crack of dawn to make the drive to downtown LA with the rest of Southern California. The INS website says that they're only open from 6am to 12pm on Thursdays, but we couldn't decide if that was all departments, or just immigration; so we settled on an 8:30ish arrival. We knew we had found the correct building when we spotted the line of Mexicans that came out the door and down the sidewalk. Thankfully, we didn't have to wait in that line. We cleared security and were directed to room 2050 on the 2nd floor, which was odd since the lobby directory said 2050 was "Advance Parole". Hmmm. We wandered the governmental building labrynth until we found the room, where we first had to check in with an armed guard who looked like he would not hesitate to plug anyone who breathed out of turn. We walked in, the guard looked us up & down, and said "International adoption, right?" Stunned, we asked if it was that obvious, to which he replied, "Um, yeah. Check in at window 10 & have a seat." Apparently, my soccer mom outfit had worked! We signed the clip board at window 10, and when we turned around to find seats, we realized why the guard knew the purpose of our visit. 1) We were the only Caucasion people in the room. 2) We were the only people speaking entirely in English in the room. 3) Several people had lawyers and/or interpreters with them. 4) Most people looked like members of the Manson Family. Fortunately, our names were called before our butts hit a chair. The nice, if unenthusiastic, girl took our paperwork checked it over, and sent us to the 8th floor to pay $665 to file this paperwork and be fingerprinted for the FBI. We trotted up to 8, paid our fees, and then trotted back down to 2 to give her the reciept and get our fingerprinting forms. Done, over with, and outa there in 35min!

The bonus about this set of fingerprints is that they're done on a walk in basis, so we didn't have to get an appointment. The INS assistace office is right near the Mall, so we drove home, and went directly there. My prints went without a hitch...Jeff had to be done twice. Again. The great thing was that there was no waiting and we were in and out in 15 min.

Now we wait. The girl at the INS said that fingerprints are getting to them in 5-10 days, but it can take the INS between 1-8 weeks to approve our application, and send us our I171-H which is Notice of Favorable Determination Concerning Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition- it's what will allow us to get our daughter's visa to enter the US. In the meantime, we'll write our Financial Statement tonight, so we can Fed Ex 90% of our Dossier information to US Asian Affairs to begin translation, notarization, and authentication for its submission to China.

If the INS approves our I600-A, it means that the government of the United States says we are fit to be parents, and the first half of the paperchase is complete. Keep your fingers crossed.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

"You Look Like My Daddy..." - 6/27/2004

I was standing backstage at Disneyland today during my event when a little chinese girl came up to me and said, "You look like my daddy!" I asked her if she looked like her mommy and she replied "No, she looks like you too...but she is a mommy."

Then, without provocation she blurted out that she was 'dopted. I asked her name and she said it was Mai-Ling (pronounced my-ling)and she was 9 yrs old. I told her that my wife and I were going to adopt a little girl from China and she told me that we were very nice and she knew that we would get a cute little girl just like her!

I found the group leader and asked about the little girl and was told that Mai-Ling has known she was adopted since she was old enough to understand and has no problems telling anyone who will listen. She was too cute for words and I thought everyone might like to hear this story...

Still in delaysville!

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Something To Watch - 06/22/2004

We know, we know: it's all fine and well to talk about this oddessy we're on, but how does it end?? What actually happens?
For a firsthand look, tune in (or set your VCRs & TiVos) to MSNBC this Saturday, June 26 (Jeff's Birthday, coincidentally) at 8pm ET for an encore of "China's Lost Girls" by National Geographic. Lisa Ling (from "The View") travels to China with a group of parents on the way to get their adopted daughters. It also discusses China's growing (and alarming) gender imbalance, why boys are preferred, and the girls themselves.

Very informative- bring Kleenex.

Friday, June 18, 2004

As We Come To A Screeching Halt 6/18/2004

Well! We thought we were on the move, and couldn't understand all these "delays" we read about on the adoption bulletin boards. We are now in Delayville.

I met with Karen, our Social Worker, on May 20something for our final visit. She went over the Homestudy (we passed with flying colors), and informed me that she just needed to type it up and I should get a proof via e-mail in about 3 weeks. Once it was approved, she would send us 3 copies: one to keep, 1 for the INS, and 1 for US Asian Affairs (USAA) our facilitators. The proof finally arrived on June 11. Along with a request for information on our volunteer activities. On June 14, we got a request for an additional years Tax info. So, we still don't have final notarized copies of the homestudy. Which means we still can't submit the I600A to the INS and begin the 6-8 week wait for approval.

Today I talked with Tracy from USAA, who informs me that there is a cut-off date each month for Dossier To China (DTC) submission. If we manage to get all our paperwork (including the I171-H form which is INS approval, which has only been given after the FBI ok's our fingerprints, which can only be done after we have filed the I600-A, which we can't do until we have a final Homestudy)in by the 5th of August, we would be DTC in Sept. The reality here is that Aug 5th would be pushing it. We are more likely to make the Sept 5th cutoff, which would make us DTC in Oct. I have been reading on the Adoption bulletin boards that some people have been getting referrals at about 6 1/2 months, but Tracy says that right now it's been running at about 8 months, but it is always subject to change. That timeline would mean we might get a referral next June, and would travel to China sometime next summer.

Welcome to the beginning of Hurry Up and Wait.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

The End is Near - 5/12/2004

....well, the end of the Homestudy anyway! I just recieved e-mail this morning from Karen, our Social Worker,that all of our refrences have arrived, and the Homestudy is therefore, finished!! We need to schedule 1 final meeting where Karen will go over the homestudy with us, and give us copies to give to the INS and to US Asian Affairs (USAA) our facilitators; and we will give her certified copies of our birth/marriage/divorce certificates as well as pictures & a letter of guardianship to give to our Adoption Agency, Bal Jagat. We're almost over the first major hurdle!
As soon as we complete our last visit with Karen, we'll be off to file our I600A form (Application for Advanced Processing of Orphan)with the INS and get fingerprinted by the FBI. While we're doing that, USAA will be translating our Homestudy and vital documents into Chinese.
Thanks to everyone who wrote refrences, and helped us to get this far!

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

The Newlywed Game - Part Two - 4/24/2004

Today was my day to go and see the social worker for the long awaited Q&A period. I had to work at Disneyland in the morning so my day did not have an agenda like Michelle's from the week earlier. My day consisted of having to be at Disneyland wide awake and ready to go at 4:45am! Not quite sure how that happened. I really need to stop answering my cell phone when I see a Disney number. Got up at 3:00am, after 3 hrs of sleep, and left for Disney by 4:00am. Worked my shows and got off at 1:00pm. I was starting to feel tired now. I drove up to Brea, which took all of 10mins, and drove around to kill some time. I finally got to the meeting place at 1:45pm and called Karen to tell her I was there.

She met me in the clubhouse area of her complex and I told her that I had been up since 3:00am with very little sleep so if I nodded off during our interview she should just slap me and remind me of what we were talking about. She laughed and said she was sure that wouldn't be necessary. She said our interview should not last as long as Michelle's since I had said I was not a talker like her. 2 hours later she would call me a liar about not being a talker. Who knew! We started with her disclaimer of letting me know that she was not trying to be invasive or trying to pry, she just needed to know about me and who I am. I have long said since starting this process that I would be less than tolerant of anyone who asked ridiculous personal questions that have nothing to do with how I would raise a child. We had both read quite a bit about people who stated the questions they had to answer and I wanted none of that. Fortunately, our social worker is extremely nice and very understanding. The interview was truly what Michelle said in her post... some background on my family, background on me and Michelle, personal assessment and miscellaneous chit-chat. That pretty much covered it.

Those of you who know me will know that there were some interesting things to talk about. She took all that in stride and thanked me for being honest as we went through. All in all, not a really bad interview at all. I think if more people had to participate in something like this before they were allowed to have a child, we would not have as many deadbeat, moron parents out there. When I was done, I called Michelle and said I was going home to have a nap. Not bad for a days work.

Our next meeting will be our last where Michelle and I hand over some documents that are required and Karen will give us copies of our completed Home study. On the move!!

Sunday, April 25, 2004

The Newlywed Game - Part One - 4/17/2004

I got up with an agenda: Breakfast, shower, get pretty, go have passport pics taken, drive to Fullerton and have interview with the Social Worker.

I got up. I cut coupons. I opened cabinets and found nothing for breakfast. I read my email. Was bored. Decided to take a shower for lack of anything better to do. Need to let hair air dry before beginning styling, so I got sucked into watching Steel Magnolias for the umpteenth time. Forty minutes later, Julia Roberts was dead and my hair was dry and not styled. Uh oh! I re-wet it and styled my hair. Since I was having passport pics taken, which are notoriously horrible, I actually applied full makeup...and then the phone rang.
It was mom. An hour and twenty minutes later, Julia Roberts is still dead and I am not dressed. Uh oh! The agenda is out the window. AAA closes in less than an hour and I have to drive to Fullerton. No passport pics today! What a waste of makeup.

The drive to Fullerton went very quickly and was mostly uneventful, which was odd because copious amounts of water were falling from the sky which leads Californians to believe that the world is ending and they should drive like idiots. I arrived at Karen's place early and we played Marco Polo on the cell phone until I found the rental office where she was going to conduct our interview. The rental office could double as a location for the South Pole and I had forgotten to bring my down parka. Penguins were seen wandering about the exercise room. There was a polar bear on the treadmill, I was cold, get it? I sat down across from Karen and she spontaneously morphed into Sigmund Freud. "Tell me about your childhood, tell me about your mother, tell me about your husband, tell me about YOU!" I tried to tell her that I was dull and uninteresting. Two hours later, she called me a liar. I think her favorite part was when I told her the story of how the Principal at Riverside Christian Day School told me I was displeasing God and going to burn in Hell because I was flunking math. Freud, aka Karen, seemed pleased that I knew this was not true. Mostly, the interview was what I expected. Some background on my family, some background on Jeff and I, a personal assessment of myself and miscellaneous chit-chat. All in all, it was easy and went well.

Our timing was right on because as I pulled out of the parking lot, Jeff called to say the Mouse had released him for the day and we decided to meet at the Brea Mall for dinner at Claim Jumper. At this point, the debriefing began for information for his upcoming interview next week.

Of Valium & Vampires - 4/12/2004

Michelle doesn't like needles! Doesn't like is putting it mildly. Screaming, hyperventilating, physical restraint are normal reactions of hers that generally make three year olds look brave. Therefore, she was extremely productive at work today on the theory that even something as boring as typing filing labels for accounting was better than thinking about the needle coming at the end of her day. She took "lunch" at 4pm which consisted of three Valium to steady her nerves. I picked her up at 4:30pm to begin the trek to the Bird Man (Doc Andrews for those of you who haven't read the previous post). When we arrived in Newport Beach at 5:15pm she was still remarkably lucid. This would never do. Like a bad episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, I had visions of chasing her screaming through the parking lot just to get a little blood. Doc Andrews agreed and told her to take the remaining two Valium in her possession. His exact recommendation was "chew them so they disolve faster". Michelle does not recommend this to anyone unless you have a large supply of breath mints handy as Valium does not taste good. Five Valium...enough to knock out a horse, or start a new addiction, seemed like a good idea. Sadly though, Michelle could still recite lines from Shakespeare. It was not working! Her mother warned me that however loopy she might be, as soon as there is a needle within thirty feet of her she would sober up immediately. Who knew!

I had to tell her that we were not taking time off work and driving all the way down here again. She would just have to get her blood drawn today. She was having none of it. I resorted to drastic tactics. I bribed her with the promise of Cheesecake Factory for dinner. I think I heard a sound of agreement through the tears that were beginning. The nurse was trying to help by saying that lots of people have this fear and they all do fine. She might as well have been saying blah blah blah blah because I am sure that is what Michelle heard. The nurse did think ahead and offer to spray the cold stuff that numbs the area. They use this on little kids. Michelle was very grateful, although she said later that it didn't help much. At this point, the vampire moved in the for the kill. I was holding onto Michelle as she buried her face in my shirt and cried. The vampire stuck the needle in and bleeding began...about two minutes later. Apparently, Michelle has the thickest blood in the known world and it flows very slowly. At least I never have to worry about her bleeding to death while waiting for medical attention. That's a load off my mind. The vampire only needed two vials of my blood, but Michelle had to ask for a quick Diabetes check. Oops, that required another vial of blood. She had to give three. This only took moments in my case but for Michelle it seemed like the vampire worked for an hour. Really it went by quickly but when you are sobbing into your husband's shirt, it seems like an eternity. It ended without incident. The vampire quickly withdrew from the room and Michelle was disappointed that she did not get a lollipop.

Now, here comes the interesting thing...apparently we both needed a TB test. Who knew! In the old days, there was a four-pronged, corn holder thingy (that's a technical term) that they scraped on your forearm area. In a couple of days you new you were in trouble if your arm was all red and itchy. But now, thanks to medical advances, they use a very thin needle, stick it under your skin and lift up while injecting what I believe is live TB into your arm. I have to admit, this was painful. Even though I said it only hurt a little, Michelle was thinking you might as well cut her arm off with a butter knife. Once again, the vampire moved in with the cold stuff, a little spray and poke and it was all over. Again, no lollipop. What has happened to the medical profession? Where are all the lollipops? Not even mention of a balloon or sticker. This place sucks!

So, for the pleasure of adopting a beautiful little girl from China, we had to get poked, prodded, pee and have our blood sucked out by the vampire. Oh, and pay about $700 to make sure we hadn't been around any birds lately. With our horrible bleeding and check writing ordeal at an end, we headed off to Cheesecake Factory to console ourselves with food. Hey, my pants don't fit anymore, but that's another story.

** Interesting note: my 120 lb wife took five Valium, gave three vials of blood and was still able to walk upright and recite Shakespeare, correctly I might add. Clearly death by drug overdose is not an option for her.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Been Around Any Birds Lately? - 4/11/2004

We did neglect to mention that we took Friday the 9th of April off to run some adoption related errands. After we had breakfast at Ruby's of course (buy 1 get 1 coupon- can't let that go to waste!).
The day began with a trip to visit the Riverside Police Dept. to have the first set of LiveScan fingerprints taken. These will clear us through the Department of Justice and run a check on us through the Child Abuse Index. LiveScan is really cool: it's all done by computer (no more ink & paper) and it works pretty much the way a scanner hooked up to your home computer does. You simply place your fingers on the glass plates, the computer scans them, and then matches the individual scans of each finger to a scan of the hand done all together. Simple. Quick. Clean. Unless you happen to be us.
Seems the coppers got a new LiveScan machine, and it is damn persnickety to say the very least. My appt. was at 9:00 am, and 47 minutes and two technicians later, they still couldn't get the computer to agree that my right pinky was indeed the same finger in 2 different scans! They finally just hit the "overide" button and called it good as they were 17 min into Jeff's appt. He fared no better. 42 minutes, 3 techs, and two uniformed officers later, most of his left hand and half of his right didn't match. The "overide" button was used liberally.
That ordeal over, we trotted a few doors down to the Sheriff's to have our county records run (all good! No wants or warrants).
Then we drove swiftly behind the "Orange Curtain" to obtain some court records & copies of our marriage license.
And our last stop of the day was in Newport Beach- we were going to see "The Birdman" - Doc Andrews. The Birdman is Jeff's fault. When he started having trouble with his gallbladder in early '99, he knew what it was, but he needed to go see a doctor to get on the path to having it extracted. As luck would have it, there was a medical group in walking distance from our apt, and Doc Andrews was able to see him. He came in, introduced himself in his mile a minute East Coast accent, and asked what was wrong. Jeff told him. To which his reply was "Been around any birds lately? Can't be too careful with those bird diseases. Haven't been around any birds have you?" We came to discover that this is a standard Doc Andrews question. When I went in a year later for an ear infection, my proximity to birds was also questioned. Ditto this last December when we were both dying with the flu and made the journey to see the Doc. So we almost fell off the exam table in shock whan we told him we were there for adoption physicals and he didn't ask about the birds. Nor did he ask if we were going to expose our future child to birds. No, no; just the usual physical kinds of things: weight (not telling), temp, blood pressure, urine sample, and 3 vials of blood each to run the various required tests. WHOA! Blood?? Needles??? I don't do needles. Couldn't we just make something up?? No. Uh-oh. How about some Valium so I'm so relaxed I don't care? YES! 5 very happy little yellow pills to take the moment I get off work on Mon the 12th while Jeff drives me. Jeff just opened up a vein without a second thought. I was feeling faint watching the vials fill with his blood. Of course, I left with a prescription for happy pills, he left with samples of blood pressure medication since he was 155/115.
I'm not looking forward to Mon.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

3 Hours Late - 4/11/2004

There we were, cleaned, pressed, and ready to face the social worker. Our appointment was for 3:30pm and we were ready. At 3:10pm the phone rang. It was Karen our social worker. She was stuck in traffic and was going to be late. I told her not to worry, we would be here and all would be well. The 91 Freeway frequently resembles a Used Car lot rather than a moving freeway. It did not occur to me to ask where she was. This was mistake #1. At 3:50pm Karen called again to say traffic was really bad and she didn't know how long it would take. At that point I asked where she was. "Anaheim Hills" she said. That meant she was still more than an hour away in traffic. I once again told her not to worry and we would be here. At 5:20pm the phone rang. Karen was still in traffic and this time had just barely passed the 71 fwy. Things were still very, very slow. She apologized & said she would call when she got close so we would know she was here and I told her that we would still be here. Michelle was taking a nap by now. I was bored out of my mind. At 5:45pm the phone rang. Could it be that she was finally here?? No, it was Charter cable calling to tell me that my High Speed internet access and cable TV bill would be going up. How nice!

At 7:05pm Karen called again. Michelle, fresh up from her nap, got the call this time. I was waiting to hear that she was still in traffic and somewhere around Tyler. I heard Michelle say, She's here! Of course I didn't believe this and went on playing a video game on the computer. At 7:10pm there was a knock at our door and the social worker had arrived! Right on time if your are in Michelle's world.

At first we thought there must be some mistake because a Jamaican Grace Jones walked through our door. But no, it turned out that was Karen, our social worker. She was very, very nice and extremely apologetic for being late. The 91 freeway claims yet another hapless victim. She was grateful for the use of our restroom and the munchies we had set out for her. She received an immediate cat scan from our three fuzz buckets and was deemed acceptable. This concluded the cats participation in the events as they all went to their respective places and promptly took a nap.

Now the fun begins. We showed Karen around our apartment. She glanced in each room and did not take out her white gloves, Megan! A cursory glance was all it took. Makes all that cleaning seem somewhat unnecessary. She was pleased that there were two bedrooms and two full baths. She commented on the large size of our kitchen. Then we gathered around the coffee table for a little Q&A. The meeting was really to get a basic overview of who we are and what we understand about this undertaking. She felt positive about us as a couple and was impressed with the amount of research that we had done and how many of her topics that Michelle and I had already discussed at length. We were prepared with answers to some questions like "how do we feel about discipline" and "what would be our parenting style."

Overall it went very well. We have three more meetings with Karen before our home study is complete. One meeting with each of us alone and one last meeting together. Michelle begins her round of the Newlywed Game next Saturday! I will go sometime after that depending on schedule. We will probably get this done within the month if our schedules remain flexible. The rest depends on how quickly we get responses from places like the INS and FBI. If all goes well our dossier could go to the facilitator for translation into Chinese by the first week in June.

We are on the move now!

Calling in Reserves!! - 4/10/2004

Due to the facts mentioned in the previous post, we had to call in reserves to help with the cleaning effort. Megan "where's the rubber gloves and Fantastik" Papa, close family friend & ruthless cleaning tyrant, came over to lend her extraordinary skills to our project. She walked right in and immediately starting asking things like, "Does this need to be here?" and "Do you really want to display this?" and "I'm gonna need another trash bag!!" We heard these statements for the past two days as Megan, Michelle and I worked our way through the jungle that is our apartment.

Michelle tried in vain to explain to Megan that the social worker was not going to use the "White Glove" treatment on our apartment. It still needed to have that "Lived in Look" but Megan insisted in soaking the glass light fixtures in bleach and scrubbing the inside of the refrigerator (for which we are eternally grateful) anyway! As a result our kitchen and front bathroom are shining examples of what human being can do when faced with extraordinary odds and an extremely sensitive nose to the cat box.

There was still just too much stuff! We are drowning in paper, catalogues and miscellaneous stuff. There was talk of a bonfire, mass trashing, and possibly moving altogether. In the end, it turned out that apartment #1 was available and we, with the manager's approval, moved all our stuff down to that apartment and closed the door. Suddenly it was like a whole new world at our apartment. The cats didn't know what to do. There was nothing to climb on and play in. They rolled all over the newly cleaned floors and continued to look around for all the stuff.

We could not have done this without Megan. She saved our lives with her willingness to help out and her strong cleaning skills. Thank you Megan very, very much. We owe you big time!! And yes, all the stuff has to be moved back after the social worker visits. Lucky us.

Cleaning Hoax - 4/2/2004

It has been pointed out by several of our "So-Called" friends that they did not believe we have actually been cleaning this entire time. In the interest of full disclosure, we have been cleaning. There were, however, several delays...both of us got colds, then Michelle threw her back out while planting plants for our patio, there was TV to watch, oh, and that pesky work thing got in the way too. So I guess there might not have been as much cleaning going on as there should have been. There, now we feel better. Still cleaning though!

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Cleaning - 3/30/2004

Still cleaning for the impending social worker visit. Thought you would like to know that!

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Social Worker Visit - 3/24/2004

The social worker gave us a couple of dates to come to our place and have our first meeting. One of the dates was this Sunday, not a chance. Those of you who have been to our place know that five days will not be good enough to clean up and I had to work at Disneyland both Saturday and Sunday. The next date she gave was April 10th. As luck would have it, I was scheduled to work at Disneyland on that day too. We read many places where people said it is not good to have too many date conflicts because the social worker might only be available those days and the next available might not be for two months. I called Disneyland and talked to my manager who, in turn, told me to email the scheduling dept. Well that turned out to be the best idea. Liz, my scheduler, was thrilled to hear that we were adopting and gave me the whole day off. She is the best! So our first visit for the home study will be on April 10th. More to come soon...

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Social Worker Surprise - 3/22/2004

Last night Michelle was checking her email and there it was, an email from the social worker! An unexpected but welcome surprise. We knew we would be contacted soon to start the home study but we didn't think it would be that soon. We will have four meetings with her and she wants to come to our house on the first visit. YIKES! I don't think we are ready for that. Especially since she wants to come soon. We are on the move now. Time to clean up and get things ready. This is where the real fun begins.

Adoption Packet - 3/20/2004

Today we received our Adoption Packet from the agency. They have accepted our application and we move forward with tons of paperwork and the home study. Of course there are many, many questions. Some of the documents read like Japanese stereo instructions. Luckily, many others have done this before so we have lots of resources for questions and answers. Let the fun begin!

Application - 3/11/2004

Our Adoption Application is on its way with the first of many checks we will have to write. The whole process has really started now! More to come soon.....

Adoption Agency Visit - 1/15/2004

Today Michelle and I are going to our first meeting with an adoption agency to discuss the possiblities of adopting a little girl from China.

The agency we are visiting is Bal Jagat in Chatsworth, CA. We are having an orientation meeting with the director, Hemlata Momaya. The meeting went very well and we had several questions answered about the adoption process. Hemlata was very, very nice and was extremely patient in answering our questions and listening to us go on and on about the pictures on her walls. She had three full walls of pictures of children from all over the world that she had help place with families looking to adopt. We felt comfortable with her and she with us. At this point we start filling out the application and start preparing for our home study.

The adventure begins....