Friday, September 28, 2007

Travel News

The good news is that we have received our travel dates. The bad news is that they are in November. We had been anticipating travel in October, so it's difficult not to feel let down.

Besides, we were told (one of the minor revelations about the Taiwan adoption process) that the First Decree really is the one that matters. The Final Decree isn't the Holy Grail we thought it was and I can't help but feel slightly robbed of the thrill of knowing the significance of the First Decree when we received news of it. As of this moment, we still have no word of a Final Decree and apparently that's A-OK with everyone who is scheduling one of the most important days of our lives so who are we to question this tiny piece of goodish news?

As for the delay in our travel dates, I am perplexed. How can it possibly make sense that a baby spend even a single extra day (let alone several extra weeks!!!) in an orphanage when they have a family that is legally and lovingly bound to them? This seems especially critical knowing that our eight month old is now starting to "grasp what it means when someone leaves his sight, the result of a growing understanding of object permanence." What's another 2 weeks when we've waited this long? It is a lot in a life of only 32 weeks.

Interestingly enough, it sounds like we will be sharing our pick-up day with two other families. Although we've been assured that lumping us all together has not caused any delay in our pick-up date, I am skeptical. Very skeptical indeed. We suspect that once the First Decree is issued, the orphanage schedules such things at their convenience rather than as expeditiously as possible.

Skeptical or no, we are excited to meet these other families and share the experience with them and even more excited to bring our Island Boy home. Despite all the frustrations along the way (and I'm certain there will be more ahead), the bottom line is that:

The real countdown has officially begun!!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fingerprints Fingerprints

We received a reminder that the First Decree is no guarantee - not that we thought it was, but still! Guess what? The timing is working out just perfectly. Just perfectly for what? Just perfectly for us to have to redo our fingerprints. It looks like our fingerprints will expire within just a few DAYS of when they will be needed for us to be able to obtain a Visa for our Island Boy. So rather than simply being frantic with all of our other preparations before we travel, we will also have the pleasure of scrambling to have our fingerprints done again.

And it's not that simple, of course. First we have to send in a letter requesting a redo (done). Then we have to wait for someone in the government to send us a letter to tell us they are ready to see us (and hoping that this happens any day so we don't have to delay our travel in order for this to happen) and then we get to drive to an inconvenient part of town and sit around for 45 minutes waiting to stick our finger in ink and have it rolled around on glass by a perfect stranger.

I know, I's a small price to pay, but still! It seems like missing the expiration date by just a few days is just cruel.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What a Picnic!

The only way to guarantee rain in Southern California is to schedule a picnic. This past weekend we attended our agency's annual picnic for all of their families. I haven't met anyone yet that can remember rain in September EVER in Southern California, but rain it did and hard.

We met lots of wonderful people including others waiting for their children in Taiwan and China, many home with their children from China, Taiwan, Guatemala, Thailand and even a couple home just five weeks from Vietnam.

It was a testament to the kind of people that adopt and to the fun we were having to see just how many people stayed through the downright downpour despite the shortage of umbrellas (Southern Californians simply do not believe it will rain even when told the chances are 100%). We also found it entertaining to see that in most cases the children (and these were all very young children) didn't seem to mind the rain at all. The adults, on the other hand...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Travel Meeting

We had our travel meeting last week - a little earlier than the agency likes to hold it, but that's how we roll - the sooner the better! (They prefer to hold the meeting just before you travel so everything is fresh in your mind.)

The meeting was a little less exciting than we'd hoped, possibly because we had just eaten lunch and were both a little sleepy (nursery preparations are beginning to take their toll). As usual, there were no major revelations. For the most part we simply reviewed the travel packet that we'd already read. Since hubby and I have traveled pretty extensively much of the information wasn't new to us, but it does seem thorough enough to make for a very pleasant journey even for those that have never traveled before.

There is one tip that I suggested the agency add to the travel information which I will mention here (just in case it doesn't make it in to the official Travel Packet by the time anyone reading this travels):

Don't forget to call your credit card companies before you travel to let them know you will be traveling internationally. If you don't do this, you may find yourselves, as we have, attempting to make a fabulous purchase only to be denied by your "helpful" credit card company (they automatically assume your card has been stolen and shut it down for you). For this reason you will also want to have at least two credit cards with you on your trip. It's always good to have a backup especially when shopping! :-)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Reflections on our home study

Our home study is long over, but it is still fresh in my mind. I remember being nervous about it, especially before the first - ok, and second - of our three required meetings (our change of country later added another required meeting for a total of four). I still don't understand why, but like the Travel Packet there is an unnecessary air of mystery about the home study process. Our agency did a very nice job of trying to comfort us about the process, but we were still wary.

To begin with, I had an issue with the name. To me, "home study" sounded like something I would need to study for and be tested on. I was half right. In reality, the home study is a chance for a social worker to study and "test" you. That fact is enough to make most people a little nervous. You get even more nervous when you realize that your "test" performance could have more serious implications than a dent in your GPA. Your home study performance can impact your dream of having children. It sounds scary, but for us it turned out to be a very good experience in almost every way.

The home study involves three mandatory visits with a social worker, at least one of which must be in your home. We chose to have the second meeting at our home and I'm happy we did it that way. On our first visit, we met at our agency, so felt less nervous about our home being judged at the same time that we were meeting our social worker for the first time. We didn't know what questions we would face, and we braced ourselves accordingly. Once we got past the fact that our meeting was being recorded, the visit turned out to be quite pleasant and was, in fact, a bit more of a conversation than a quiz. We answered questions about our beliefs and about our plans for parenting. Some of the questions caught us off guard with topics we had never discussed or considered (e.g. how do you plan to punish your children?), but we found the chance to investigate these issues together to be a very nice experience of the kind that many parents never actually have in advance of becoming parents.

Our second meeting was at our home and we fussed (ok, I was mainly the one fussing) about having everything in the house lest we be judged to be less fit for parenthood by the sofa pillow not being placed at just the right angle. We even considered that our social worker would be coming to us directly from her day job, so prepared a lovely tray of fruit and cheese for her to snack on in case she was the type to get moody when hunger distracted her. As it turned out, she didn't touch the snacks (perhaps they were considered bribes of a sort?) and breezed through our house so quickly I almost felt I should ask her to dwell a bit and appreciate our efforts. For once, I kept my mouth shut.

Other than hoping our home would pass muster, we were also concerned about the mysterious format of this meeting: we were to be separated and each would undergo a one hour interview out of earshot of the other. Yikes! What could they possibly be up to with this method of interrogation?? Once again, we worried needlessly. This time, the questions were mostly questions that the two of us had already discussed many times - questions about what we loved most about each other and what our childhoods were like. When we asked the social worker why they separated us, she said sometimes couples feel like they can be more open with this format. Huh.

Our final (well, almost final) home study visit was also in our home (at our option). This time we weren't nervous and actually looked forward to the visit. Our social worker was an absolutely warm and charming woman that we truly enjoyed visiting with (although I have to admit our conversations were rather one-sided, by necessity). Our final visit was to talk about how we would handle the wait and to tie up any loose ends on details we might have missed in earlier conversations (there are some mandatory questions required by the state that must be covered during these visits to ensure we are not sex offenders, drug addicts or anything else of that ilk).

After this meeting, our social worker prepared a report describing us, our home, and our plans in great detail. It would make for an interesting read, but as far as I know, we will never see it. Once completed, the report became part of our dossier.

We thought we were finished with home study issues until we learned two things:

1) Our social worker had decided to move to the east coast and
2) We decided to switch countries.

The country switch meant that we needed one more visit for a "home study update" and since our social worker was no longer in the area, our update visit was with a new, equally warm and caring social worker. The update visit was at our agency and we discussed our reasons for switching countries.

When it was all over, we were very happy to have had the experience and felt closer to each other than ever for having gone through it together. I do wish I could get my hands on whatever was written about us, but I imagine it was relatively nice since we have received a referral and now, finally, a First Decree.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Juicy Details

There seems to be an air of mystery about what the First Decree is like and what happens after the First Decree, so I'll do what I can to give you all the juicy details from my point of view as we go through the process.

Hopefully you've already read my rendition of what the First Decree means and also how smoothly (haha) we handled it. The day after we received the news, we received a "Travel Packet" from our agency. The Travel Packet seems like one of the Holy Grails of the International adoption process: a right of passage that means you're almost there. I hate to be the one to make it anything less than a thrill to open when it's your turn, so if you don't want me to spoil the surprise, stop reading this post now.

If you're still reading you're about to learn the exciting contents of the Travel Packet, so here's one last warning and chance to stop reading.

Still here? Ok, here it is, the contents of the Travel Packet:

[Drum roll, please!]

1. A bill! That's right. Isn't that exciting? Yes, we received a bill and a rather large one at that.
2. A description of the court process. By now you're already familiar with that. (If not, see any number of earlier posts for highlights.)
3. A section on what to take with us along with a detailed checklist. This section also includes information on currency and hotels. The information on hotels goes into great detail on each one including rates and pictures for each.
4. A description of the orphanage and the people that work there.
5. A description of the Visa procedure.
6. Important phone numbers and helpful addresses (written in Mandarin and English) to give to cab drivers.
7. A map of Taiwan and information on things to see and do.
8. Some nice travel stories.

That's it! No big mystery, but a lot of fun to receive and go through. It covers all the details we'll need for our trip except when the trip will be. We'll also be meeting with the agency to answer any additional questions and to go over everything again in great detail. I've been promised the level of detail we receive in our meeting will be a description of our time in Taiwan almost to the minute and probably more than we want. We are exceedingly detail-oriented, so I doubt it will be more than we want, but we're looking forward to it anyway!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Behind or Right on Time?

When we received our referral, we tried to kick nursery preparations into high gear, so convinced were we that we would be one of the lucky ones with a very fast judge. Alas, by now we know that we did not get the very fast judge which is just as well as nursery preparations came to a near standstill during Shasta's illness and hubby's much longer than expected time on crutches.

In any case, we have made up for lost time in the last few days and the nursery is rapidly nearing completion. When we received news of our First Decree last Thursday, our guest room still looked like a guest room. By Thursday night, it was devoid of furniture save a tiny rocking chair with a stuffed lion in it and a fully loaded wine rack. Hey, what more do you think he needs? ;-)

Nearly every room of our house has been affected by the preparations. Furniture has been cleared out and baby furniture has been ordered. Last night we accomplished the big one: we bought a crib! While our dear one won't be sleeping in the $6,000 crib, we don't think he'll mind especially.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

First Decree: The Meaning of Life

Ok, I've calmed down only just enough to try to explain myself a bit. :-) For those of you that have either never heard of a First Decree or are still trying to figure out what it is, here's my Cliff's Notes review of the Taiwan adoption process:

Once a family is matched with a child (this took over 6 months from dossier completion for us but is running closer to 12 months these days I've heard), the family's dossier is translated into Mandarin and shipped off to Taiwan. Shortly after the dossier is received in Taiwan, the case is logged into the courts. That's right, the court process doesn't begin until the family is matched and the documents are translated and received in Taiwan (in our case another month passed between referral and LID)!

We've been told the average court time is four months. During these four months, a judge may or may not call for a hearing. If a hearing is called, the waiting family may or may not receive notice of the hearing. Regardless of whether a hearing is called, the first formal ruling in the case is called the FIRST DECREE. The First Decree is when all interested parties are notified that the judge has made a decision in the case and the adoption is about to become final. This is a very big deal and this is the call we received today!!

After First Decree, a minimum of ten days must pass before a Final Decree is issued. Once the Final Decree is issued, the family is legally a family!! However, the baby cannot come home until he receives a Visa which requires an appointment which apparently cannot be set until the Final Decree is issued. Bottom line is that we should expect to bring our Island Boy home in roughly six weeks.

News of a First Decree (or any Decree or any news at all for that matter) is what we've been waiting for for months, so what do you think we did when the agency called? We sent them to voicemail. Nice, huh? Luckily, hubby recovered quickly enough to call them back straight away (while I glared at him wondering what could be so important that he had to return a call just then). Here's a tip for those of you that are waiting: even if it's been months since the agency has called you (other than to remind you of an upcoming class), remind yourself daily of the agency's phone number just in case you see it appear on your caller ID and if you see it, ANSWER THE PHONE!! Waiting Dads, that includes you. :-)

Oh, and did I mention that we received news of our First Decree today?!?!?!? :-D

Babies, Babies Everywhere!

I had been writing this post just prior to getting the news of our First Decree, so what the heck? I'll go ahead and post it anyway:

During the past week we know of at least THREE families that have traveled to Taiwan to pick up their babies. Two of these families received their referrals within a few days of ours so that could mean that we are getting close or it could mean nothing at all. We are certainly happy to see some babies coming home!



Save a Life

You know you've been waiting a long time when you've taken all the classes your agency has to offer...TWICE.

This past weekend hubby and I got certified for infant CPR. Again. I'm a big proponent of EVERYONE (yes, including YOU!) being certified to perform CPR and renewing that certification annually (yes, EVERY year!). The classes only last a few hours, are always reasonably interesting, and can save a life. Really! Save a life!! Think about it. That's huge, right? So why isn't everyone certified? I have no idea.

In our case, we attended the class offered through our agency and it was fun to see other waiting couples, commiserate a bit and crack some jokes while refreshing our skills (and hoping we never ever need them).

If you haven't gotten certified yet, go find a class in your area and sign up to do it now.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Roller Coaster

Adoption is a roller coaster, and I don't mean the good kind. The adoption process is a funny one - you have a major flurry of activity early on. During this time you feel like you're moving forward and good things are happening. Fingerprints? Check! Marriage Certificates? Check! Criminal Background Check? Check!

Then the wait begins and months of no news descend upon you - no monthly checkups, no progress charts to refer to, no updates of any kind - just waaaaiting. Eventually, you get your referral and you are soooo excited! Things are happening again! In our case, we received our referral and were immediately tasked with sending a care package, so we really felt like things were happening.

Then the really tough wait began. And, unlike the wait for referral, the estimated time to travel was, has been and is a lot less predictable. Unlike pregnancy, where you have a pretty good idea of when the baby will show up (and you certainly know it won't be longer than nine months!!), we have no idea whether we will wait another week or another six months before we next receive any news. Roller coaster indeed.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Awesome Video


Polar Bear Playing

Twenty Questions

I called our agency today to quiz our very patient coordinator and determine whether I could pose the perfect combination of questions to cause the magic answer (i.e. "Congratulations! You received your final decree today!!") to come forth.

Although my interrogation did not result in the answer I hoped for (not that I thought it would), nor in the second best answer (i.e. "You will receive your final decree on X!", where X is today+1=tomorrow) I did learn the following:

that news of a decree can come at any time on any day at any time during any month.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Dear Judge

Dear Judge,

We could really use a decree or two from you, so please consider rifling through your stack of cases, finding all of your adoption cases and expediting them. The families affected by those cases will all be thrilled to hear word from you. Us especially. As it stands, our family tally is down 2 for the year rather than up 1, so we'd love your help in righting the tally soon.

A Waiting Family

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Not a Consolation Prize

Some people seem to think that adoption is some sort of consolation prize - a last resort for those that have no other choice in building their family.

Regardless of the reasons a family initially considers adoption, once they're in the process, it usually feels like the absolutely right thing to do. Surprising as it may seem to some, there are families - lots of families - that are in the process of adopting that have every intention of continuing with the adoption process even if they get pregnant (another thing people seem to think magically happens to people that adopt).

Adoption, like pregnancy, has its own rewards and those that never experience it may never know.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Tagged Again

I've been tagged again. This time by my new friends from New Zealand and with a new twist. Here are the rules of this particular flavor of the game:

You have to post these rules before you give the facts. Players, you must list one fact that is somehow relevant to your life for each letter of your middle name. If you don’t have a middle name, use the middle name you would have liked to have had. When you are tagged, you need to write your own blog post containing your own middle name game facts. At the end of your blog post, you need to choose one person for each letter of your middle name to tag. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged & to read your blog!

I'm electing to choose a word that is a bit of a stretch as a middle name. I could have selected "Island", but, since it's shorter, I will choose "Boy"! That kind of counts as a middle name, doesn't it?? Ok, here we go:

"B" is for berries, which I love to eat all summer.
"O" is for where I grew up!
"Y" is for "you yong" which is the English spelling of the Mandarin word for swimming, which I love to do!

This version of the tagging game is a bit easier than some of the other versions so I hope these folks will be happy to get tagged: Hughes Family, William, the Over the Rainbow. Folks, it's up to you to pass along the game of tag to the next players. Have fun with it!

T+1 and Counting

Well, our time to travel ticker reached zero yesterday with no news in that regard. Luckily, the ticker was good for something...we had liftoff of hubby's crutches!! Hurray!! He is now free to slowly retrain his leg to walk.

In other news...

My car has been repaired and my insurance company assures me that I will somehow be getting my (very large) deductible back eventually since either the other party isn't insured or, if they are, their insurance company will pay for it. This is assuming, of course, that my 32 pictures of the scene are convincing enough that my car was still parked securely in its spot while their vehicle definitely was parked in my vehicle's bumper rather than in its designated parking spot. I don't have the check in hand yet, but assume the wait for it will be shorter than the wait has been for the Taiwanese court system thus far.