Monday, September 17, 2007

Moving on up

To my own web domain!

Check me out over at CJ's Daddy

I'm keeping the blogger site around for a while as the kinks are worked out. All the new stuff will be over at my new web site. Look forward to seeing you over there!!!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Back in the Ring

Looks like the KO was short lived - we're back in PGN already!

As things go with Guatemala Adoptions, updates pass through several hands sometimes, so the reality is that our KO came last week, only took a few days to correct, and we're back in as of Tuesday. The KO update implied that the objections were trivial, so I guess that turned out to be the case. I guess you can stop chewing on your fingers now!

What can we look forward to?

Probably an medical update with pictures next week.
We'll get ourselves on the package list again and send one more of those.
Eventually, we'll get out of PGN clean and move forward with the rest of the steps (check out the timeline along the right)
How long does PGN normally take? About 8 weeks, then it's on the the final steps.
Still praying/hoping/fingercrossing/woodknocking/etc for a Christmas homecoming. Thanks again for the continued support out there!

What to do now? Just sit back, kick your feet up, and enjoy the rest of the ride!!!

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Down for the count... A crowd in our corner

The red-head defines this as one of those good news - bad news situations. I'm more thinking it's a wait and see situation.

Just backtracking a bit - Pre-Approval is required for the PGN(Guatemalan legal authority) to approve the adoption. Because PA sometimes takes a while, our lawyer submitted our case, knowing it would get kicked out, hoping also to find any other potential problems. So, once PA arrived, we actually needed the KO.

Today, we got word that we were indeed KOed. Unfortunately, there were 2 other apparently small issues that will also need to be corrected before re-entering PGN. So, it turns out, the early submission was a great idea, but it's unfortunate that PA wasn't the only issue. These are both Guatemala side problems that we have no control over. Our lawyer is known as a good one, so we're confident these will be corrected and we'll be back on track soon. This kind of thing is par for the course, and part of the reason this process can be so stressful. Now we just wait for things to happen, which is actually not much different than before, but with this new dash of "fun".

The obvious question will be: "does this mean it will take longer to bring CJ home?" The best answer right now is, maybe - just a little. Does it dash our hopes of a pre-Christmas pick up trip? Not ready to say that yet. We'll know more in a week or two. We were a little ahead of schedule considering the early submit, so we can still make it.

So, why don't I seem a little more down in the dumps about all of this?

Because we've got a huge crowd of "Rod Chairs" in our corner pulling through the KO. The most obvious here (in the blogosphere) are the many well wishes we've received on this very blog in the past few weeks especially. Thanks so much for those!

This past weekend we had our Guatemala Night at church and it was a huge success. The night started with all kinds of Guatemalan cuisine - tamales, black beans, tacos with avocado sauce. There were all sorts of displays of Mayan crafts, pictures of Carmen of course, and several auction items. Then the red-head and I tag teamed on a presentation to show what we've learned about Guatemalan culture and our adoption experience. Our dear friends even compiled a moving video that gave everyone their fist video glimpse of us spending time as a family of three. Between that and the Mission Guatemala video we should have put tissues out instead of salsa verde!

If you're the praying type - keep it up. If your a finger crosser or wood knocker, that'll work too. Or, if you just like so chew on fingers - that's an option also...

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007


OK, now "Pre" Approval sure doesn't sound by it's name to be as exciting as it really is, but believe me, it's by far the biggest step we've achieved to date as far as the legal process goes.

PA - consists of the US immigration process that is necessary to bring CJ home. It's literally pre-approval of a travel visa to bring her into the good old US of A!!! They call it Pre because they await final approval of the Guatemalan Attorney General's office (PGN) to finally issue that visa. Fittingly, the PGN will not approve the case until the US Embassy issues it's PA. So here we are, the first step in the fun back and forth now completed.

As I mentioned earlier, our attorney in Guatemala has really been on top of things on our behalf. He actually submitted our case to the PGN weeks ago, knowing it would be initially sent back to him (KO'ed) due to the lack of PA. The advantage of this is that he should know at that time exactly what other problems might be identified (PGN requires a boatload of info - not just PA). Chances are that file has already been KO'ed, and will hopefully be resubmitted soon. Often times, we just don't know about it until a couple of weeks later.

So, we keep truckin along!!! Unfortunately, this still does not give us an answer to the lingering question of "when can we bring her home". But it does provide much greater certainty that our initial goal of traveling at least by January may come true. I've been saying a lot more lately that we're hoping and praying to have her home by Christmas. Not getting hopes up at all, but I can no longer deny that it's a real possibility. But the way this process goes, we won't know that for sure until closer to Thanksgiving.

That's it for now - hopefully we'll see more updates in a couple of weeks letting us know we've been out then back in over at PGN. It's been a great couple of weeks - we're due for a lull in activity!

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Carmensita really is that amazing!!!

And she really is this cute...

And this beautiful...
Yup - that's right - we're home from visiting our little Carmen - or as her foster family refers to her - Carmensita.

As my wife just told her father - she has me totally wrapped around her little finger. CJ is the sweetest little girl in the world. Her smile lights up a room, but she's a little stubborn with her laughs. Actually, many of her smiles are little smirks that sometimes develop in to full blown smiles and sometimes do not. She loves to be held, and hugged, and kissed. She's not at all bothered by noisiness and in fact prefers that you go ahead and be loud! She likes to eat about every 3 hours and will tell you with all her might when she's hungry.

We flew down last Sunday afternoon from Philly via Miami, with a fairly uneventful flight. It's 2 2.5 hour flights that way, with a 2.5 hour layover in Miami (not the most pleasant airport in the world). Even with smooth travels, we were weary, and anxious for the next day to come. We traveled with Carmen's Tia S - who really helped with advise, a little Spanish, and of course - videos and snapshots.

The plan:
  1. Meet Carmen, her foster mommy - N and translator - O, at 10AM Monday in the hotel lobby.
  2. Spend Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday with her
  3. N will come back to hotel mid-day Thursday to take her home
  4. We spend the next day and a half as tourists - possibly visiting Antigua (a beautiful colonial town about an hour from Guatemala City.
  5. Then we head home Saturday
Reality in Guatemala:
  1. We awake Monday morning, brimming with anticipation, but expecting Carmen to be a little late as we were warned might be the case.
  2. The phone doesn't ring until 10:45, but it's not O.
  3. We call O at 11:30, and leave him a message.
  4. The phone proceeds to ring 3 more times, including a call from O telling us they will arrive around 2:30 with the baby.
  5. The phone rings around 2:35 - it's O in the lobby with Carmen and N.
  6. We head downstairs, Carmen is placed in our arms and we review all kinds of info. B shows up just as N and O are about to leave so we get to meet her as well.
  7. O unexpectedly tells us that N and B will meet us in the lobby of the hotel at 5PM Friday!!!
  8. We spend the week with Carmen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  9. We head down to the lobby at 4:55, N walks in at 5:00.
  10. B finally shows up around 5:50, after having been called by N.
  11. We travel back to the US, slightly down in the dumps, but confident because N is so awesome.
There you have it - our week in a nutshell. But it was so much more than that. It was so much more than diapers (yes - she peed during one of my diaper changes), bottles, drool, zerberts, and naps.

But, then again, that's exactly what it was about. It was about getting to know our Carmensita. And we learn about her through her play, how she eats, and how she laughs and cries. Right now she expresses who she is through these things.

Will she remember us? Not really sure. We made an audio tape of us playing, singing, and talking to her, which N was looking forward to playing for her. This might help in that regard. We're pretty sure she missed her Momma N, as she has known only her foster family since day 10 of her life. What an amazing family she has in Guatemala.
She loves to play with her hands and suck on her fingers and wrists. She hiccups quite a bit and yawns regularly - we have both on video. She has smooth brown skin and a complexion that looks great in yellow, blue, and green. She has beautiful deep brown, expressive eyes - I can see my reflection in them - literally.

As you can see above, her hands and fingers seem a little large, but her feet are a bit on the small side.

As luck would have it, we received a new set of pictures, a medical report, and a case update while we were there with her. She's 16 lbs now at 4 months old - very healthy. We're still waiting on Pre-Approval from the US Embassy, but the case has entered PGN - the Guatemala attorney general's office that handles adoption cases. They will review the file, and tell our lawyer what items must be fixed. We know for sure the Pre-Approval must be there, but some lawyers will submit knowing this so they can find the other potential problems and fix them quickly. Not sure yet if this will speed up our case in the end game, but it may give us more certainty a little further down the road.

It was an amazing week. Totally amazing. She's a wonderful little girl who is developing her own personality right now. Her family right now in Guatemala loves her to pieces. We were are at piece knowing she is so loved- this helped us a great deal as we watched her leave us.

We will be back. Soon I pray.

I've got tons more pics (as does Tia S), so I'll share more soon. We've also got hours and hours of video (again thanks mostly to Tia), which I'll share as well. Not sure exactly how I'll accomplish this yet.

I must end this post with the cutest picture in the history of photography. You've seen all kinds of cute pictures in your day right? Babies, puppies, kittens, babies with puppies, kittens with puppies. All of them are cute.

But not like this. I present to you: CJ lounging the pool with one of her trademark smirks.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Wishful hearing and a variety of ponderances

ooops, sorry :(

Lately, I've been rather introspective about this adoption and my baby girl. Thinking a lot about what she will really be like. Are the pictures below any indication of her personality? Did she just smile in these pictures, or did she laugh out loud? What does her laugh even sound like? Between meetings and putting out fires (figuratively) - that's really what I've been thinking about all day.

I have the pictures, particularly the latest round totally memorized, but will I even recognize her when I meet her later this month? Will she recognize me when we return for the pick up trip after having spent 4 days with her some months prior?

No updates to provide on the case, but the countdown to the next step continues. We might not actually have major news until early Sept as that will put us through the normal time frame for this step in the process (waiting for Pre-Approval). Also, a step has been added at the end. The US Embassy now requires a follow-up DNA test to ensure a match to very early in the process. While I don't like the additional cost and extra 1-2 weeks wait at the end, I support this step anyway. It's important that this process be as ethical as possible.

I might be broaching an unwritten blog rule by including 3 subjects in one post, but I've got one more item to note. The blog-roll has grown and I wanted to make a special point to invite you to visit these folks. Some were mentioned in my tag post, but now they are officially linked in! Each and every one of these bloggers has something worthwhile to say. As I keep telling ya'll, I don't personally blog about certain topics - at least at this point. But I do think and talk about all kinds of adoption issues, and these folks offer a great deal of insight, to me at least.

The Road to Uzbekistan
- some fine folks who hope to bring home their daughter some time soon!

Waiting for Anthony
- who just got new pictures of their adorable son, and post some truly inspirational thoughts regularly.

Uzbek Ubet
- might be the funniest mom around these days. Trust me, you have to check that blog out.

Keeping On - who's girls really are gorgeous. A multi-racial family from whom we can learn a lot.

From the Mind of a Bmom - mom to Cory who really has a great outlook on life with her experiences in an open adoption.

Stupid stuff I think- oh yes, I've got the guts to link in Petunia - somewhat outspoken, never dull, and almost always right - almost.

My Best Laid Plans
- great title - a blog I just recently found, which seems to spark a lot of deep thoughts for me.

Our Guatemalan Adoption
- not the most original title, but a new family family just about to bring home their son. For some reason, I sense we have somethings in common with these folks.

Last but not least - our "neighbors" and new friends chronicle their Wild Ride to bringing home Toby.

That's it for now. Enjoy the required reading!

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Tag, I'm it!!!

I've been tugged! Thanks to the wonderful and witty Melissa (not the M who sleeps next to me)- who's in the process of adopting from Uzbekistan, I've got to come up with some clever answer now!

Here it goes....

5 Things I Was Doing 10 Years Ago:
Working for an Automation/Systems Integrator in suburban Philly
Moving into my first post-college apartment
Gaining weight (half of it’s gone now)
Spending too much money (all of that’s gone now!)
Working on my Matchbox collection (not so much these days)

5 Snacks I Enjoy:
Potato Chips
Fresh Roasted Peanuts
Moravian Sugar Cake
Doritos (just about any flavor)
Chewy candy (Swedish fish, nibs, gummy bears)

5 TV Shows I've Seen Every Episode Of:
--Seinfeld (still the funniest show ever- although The Office is catching up)
--Who’s the Boss? (you shouldn’t have to ask why)
--Gilligan’s Island (hilarious, but not for the reasons intended)
--Sledge Hammer (oh how I miss that show)
--Heroes (yah, I know big deal it’s only 1 season so far)

5 Things I Would Do If I Were A Millionaire:
--Invest and find a way to keep it from Uncle Sam
--Support a variety of ministries that shall remain nameless
--Build a home up in the mountains
--Build a home on the Outer Banks
--Quit working a regular job (anyone who says they would keep working is lying!)

5 Bad Habits:
--Wasting time browsing news/sports/adoption sites instead of getting some exercise
--Over-analyzing all decisions
--Potato Chips

5 Things I Like To Do:
--Spend time with my friends and family
--Disc Golf (don’t call it Frisbee golf!!!)
--Geography (GIS, maps, political, archaeological, etc)
--Dream about bringing Carmen home

5 Things I Would Never Wear Again:
--My high school basketball uniform (particularly the shorts)
--Silk shirts
--Long Hair (at least not as long as it once was)
--Combat boots (don’t ask)

5 Favorite Toys:
--My laptop
--My pickup truck (yup, I’m a bit redneck – gotta have that truck)
--My Mantis Tiller (most reliable piece of equipment I own)
--My electric knife (carves a fine turkey, roast, bread, etc)
--My blackberry (me = stereotypical blackberry addict)

5 Things I Can't Stand:
--Ink on my hands

Phew - that wasn't so bad. So, now who to tag?

Let's go with Lisa, Mike, Sean, Jonathan & Matthew - growing their family with a little girl from Uzbekistan (yay - the news is out!!!)

And how 'bout our new friends Tammy, John, Delicia, Meghan, & Courtney who are preparing to bring home Anthony, running very close to us in time-line. These folks are a really neat family - and yes - I never thought I'd say that about anyone from New England (hehe).

I've got to include a different Tammy and Sean from my home state of PA, who just recently brought home Sweet Elena(If she isn't' cute, then I don't know what cute is). Don't worry if it takes you a little while to get to it, I'm sure you've been busy!

How 'bout another new friends, Andrea and Dave, who are blessed to be adopting the quadro-dimpled and amazing little Kylie America.

Ah, I guess I should include the Melissa who actually does sleep next to me. The red head doesn't post as often as me, but when she does it's quite thoughtful.

Have fun!

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Another bittersweet update

Howdy all! Today we learned for certain that the family court interviews we conducted back on July 6. This is where a Guatemalan social worker interviews Carmen's mother to discuss the circumstances of her relinquishment. Often times this takes place on the same day as the DNA test, but not always - as was the case here. This is another reminder of how difficult this process is for everyone involved. As I've said before, as wonderful as it is to build a family, a great deal of loss takes place in order for an adoption to happen. If you're the praying type, please pray for Carmen and her birth mother.

Nevertheless, the process continues, and the end result is progress on the case. This means that we are officially in "Family Court" and wait for approval of that body just as we wait for the US Embassy to issue their pre-approval. Alas, we have a visit trip to plan and our social worker and lawyer continue to do a great job on our behalf.

Carmen's 3 month birthday was last Friday, and in honor, here's a cute little grin. I know the picture is a bit blurry, but that's OK.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

More and More updates

Another day of updates. Just last week we received pictures from Carmen's June "well baby check" and our DNA match. We're still planning a visit in August, so that's got everyone buzzing these days.

Today we received her July medical update and even more pictures! These were taken just last week, and holy wow - she's changed even since June. There were some pics in the batch with the first ziplock package we sent, so that confirms it's arrival. Still not quite 3 months old, she's 13.8 lbs, got a few more of her immunizations, and grew an inch since June. Her foster mommy is sortof holding her up in each of the pictures, but it looks like her head it starting to get stable. I bet the next batch will have one of those on the stomach with head held up shots.

We're on day 13 of our 60 day PA (pre-approval) period. Some folks are getting it in 55 or so days, a few are getting it in 62, so we're being patient. It certainly helps to be getting so many other updates and pictures. But, don't be surprised if we go into a slow period until early August.

And now for the real reason your reading my blog. The adorable, precious, amazing Carmen:

A dear friend of ours tells me this is her favorite so far - she's looking right at the camera:

I really like this one - looks like she's checking out her foot. Come on, let's take the socks off and see those tootsies!
Several people have commented already that she looks good in turquoise or whatever color she's wearing. Can't really argue - looks better than the pink from last month's pictures.
This final shot is the red-head's favorite. She claims CJ is already giving the puppy dog eyes. I'll never fall for it!!! ya right.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Good Grief - DNA Match!!!

As was the case earlier, not much time or energy to post. It's been a crazy day - but we've got just about the best news possible at this point in the process.

The DNA test was done, and we've already got the results - it's a match! Simply put, this means that the woman who presented Carmen for adoption is, in fact, her mother - as proven by a standard maternity test. This is important because it proves to the powers that be at the US embassy that things so far are on the up and up.

More importantly, it acts as an safety point in the process that allows us to plan a visit trip to meet our daughter in person! As you can see, this is a huge deal!

What's more crazy - we totally did not expect it. Generally, folks in the process get some kind of notice that the test is scheduled or has taken place, then sit around nervously waiting for the result. For us, we just learned that the test was authorized a couple of weeks ago, then whammo - the results show up on our door step - we learned about it before our social worker!

What an amazing day for us, but I must digress a tad and mention that our joy is most certainly not matched by Carmen's birth mother. The paperwork we received today included photos of her holding her daughter close, one with a slight smile, one with a slight frown. These pictures will be very important as we share this entire story with Carmen one day. Both of the people in these photos are experiencing a great deal of loss and we cannot come close to relating. More reflection on this will come out in the future I'm sure.

So, now it's off to start planning our visit trip, and to begin the countdown to pre-approval by the US Embassy (DNA match is the starting point). We haven't even talked it over with our social worker yet, so we'll keep you all posted - by the time we plan it all out, it could still be several weeks. Time to get some sleep!!!!

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

New pictures - she's got a left ear!!!

Not that I was really worried about it - but it was the wittiest thing I could think of quickly.

I've only got a little bit of time to post, but here are 2 of Carmen's latest pictures. She's actually just under 2 months old here - these were taken back in June at her medical checkup. Not sure exactly, but I believe there were some IT problems that slowed down their delivery (please no comments from the peanut gallery). So, it's quite possible we'll get a July update soon as well. As you can tell with this process, nothing is totally predictable - you take care of whatever is in your control and just keep an eye on the rest.

CJ decided to wake up for these pictures, although a couple of them seem like she'd rather be sleeping. Here's one - the woman holding her is her foster mom - you can see the caring look in her eyes - it's wonderful to know she is in such loving hands. But, we can't really post her picture on the web so I cropped it a little:

Here's the cutest picture of all. Not sure what she's looking at, but she's really showing off those chubby cheeks!

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

It's going to be hard to sleep Sunday night

No real news this week - but I'm sure bureaucrats and lawyers spent some time shuffling papers and filing forms. Some of the more mundane parts of the legal process are not really sent to us as updates - more of the milestones. If 3 weeks pass with no milestone, they will give us a general status report though.

We are approaching 2 months since we received our referral for Carmen. This means we should receive a video of our little girl any day now. Honestly though, we're a just as anxious to receive more pictures, as we have not gotten any new ones since referral. In most cases, pictures are sent with medical updates, but that did not happen for us last month. Most likely, the timing just did not work out for Carmen's foster mom to visit the office after her checkup.

I really can't wait to see how she's grown and changed. A lot of people ask us how hard it is to not be able to watch CJ growing up as an infant. It is very difficult, but we are patient people (as if we had a choice) and have faith in those who are taking care of her.

Carmen's last checkup was on June 7th, so we're hoping that she either went to the doctor for her monthly visit yesterday (Friday) or will be going this coming Monday. That means pictures may already be en route, or will be sent early next week.

This is probably not my most elegantly written post, but I'm up later than I should be and just had to jot something down. With pictures on the way, I already know it's going to be hard to sleep Sunday night. Ugh.


Sunday, July 01, 2007

Ziplock Number Two - twice as much love!!!

We just prepped our second ziplock bag to send to Guatemala for Carmen. I think this one has the same amount of stuff in it, but some of that stuff is a little bigger.

Thanks to our new friend from Tennessee who's going down to pick up her son some time this month. How cool is that. You may recall we hooked up with some other fine folks (in that case from MD) who were visiting their daughter for CJ's first package a little over a month ago. I must say it's actually awfully fun putting these packages together, and it's also a cool way touch base with some people who are going through a similar experience.

This time we included 2 more cameras, 2 outfits, a hat, La Oruga Muy Hambrienta (The Very Hungry Caterpillar), and a cute little stuffed Eyore. Ya, the Red-Head is already exposing Carmen to her favorite children's author (Eric Carle), and favorite children's character. You'll also notice some things that clearly are not meant for a baby, particularly one without teeth. In this package we are including a little something for Carmen's foster family - some bubble gum for the kids, trail mix for their Papá, and a dish towel and earrings for their Mama.

Here's how it looked all packaged up. Had to take front and back photos since the view was so different.

It's getting late, but now I'm kinda wound up - so there's no telling how much sleep I'll actually get. Oh well, I just don't care any more. It's so worth it.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

DNA Authorization!

Just a quick update. We received word that the DNA test has been authorized by the US Embassy in Guatemala. This is step 25 in our time line found on the right hand side of the blog.

This is not a difficult hurdle, but a big one because it means that our lawyer is pushing our case through the different steps. This essentially means that a DNA test will be scheduled soon to ensure that Carmen's Birth Mother really is. This is one of the steps in the process that has helped eliminate corruption. I think it's just a swipe from inside the cheek, which are sent to a lab, no blood work. Also in most cases, the family court interview is conducted on the same day. This will all likely be scheduled, then we'll learn about it after the fact. Depending on where everyone lives and what their work schedules are like, it can be tuff to schedule that appointment.

I can imagine that this will be a difficult and emotional day for Carmen's Birth Mother, so please keep her in your thoughts and prayers.

Once the match takes place, we'll be able to schedule our visit trip! Of course, that match could still be a month or two away, then another month to schedule the trip, so we're talking September as the most realistic time frame for our trip to meet our daughter in person.

I have nothing clever or witty to say - just a big smile today.

Here's to progress!!!

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What's going on!!!!

EDIT - this post delayed by a day due to technical difficulties (UGH don't ask!!!).

Happy birthday to Carmen - who is 2 months old today (Ok, yesterday)!!! Still no more pictures or video - those both could arrive any day. So much of this process is variable, it all depends on when her foster mom takes her into the office and who's around when she does. As for actual case updates, those come and go as well. All of this takes time, and much of it is in the hands of govt agencies over which we have no control. The process sure has its ups and downs. Seems like we've been in quiet mode for a couple of weeks now, but not really down. But in light of it being little Carmen's B-day, I'm keeping it fun today.

Being an expectant parent "dates" you in strange way, I feel like I have a new vibe about me lately. Can anyone out there confirm that? I will remember everything and nothing that happens this year because it is the year of my daughter's birth. Don't think I'm suddenly going to mature (is that even possible?), but any discussion of the way things used to be has really become very intense for me. We've been getting our pictures printed at Walmart lately. I didn't set foot inside a Walmart until they built one 15 miles from me when I was a teenager. Now there's one a mile from where I grew up and the first one I mentioned is actually being prepped for major renovations. Something build when I was a teenager is old and ugly and requires renovation. What the?

On the way home from work yesterday, a DJ went into the commercial break previewing his upcoming set. Included would be 3 Doors Down, Cheryl Crow, and some "Classic U2". Yeh, he said CLASSIC U2. Upon return from commercial, he played "Where the Streets have no Name." Are you kidding me? I love that song - who doesn't, but is it really a classic? Can any song that I remember it first being aired on MTV be considered a classic? What's going on?

OK one more fun rant. The RH and I went into Baby's R Us on Monday and investigated some car seats. The truth is, we have now registered there and subsequently discovered (reading online reviews) that the car seat we wanted might not work well with her vehicle. So, a few people suggested we just ask them if we can try it out. Unfortunately, we couldn't find a baby to bring with us, nor could we find someone willing to rear end us at 30 MPH with said baby - so just fitting the seat into the back seat would have to do.

It's a good thing we did that because it wasn't even close. We are trying to be as frugal as possible about this considering all the other expenses involved. So we picked out a seat that converts from rear facing, to forward, then into a booster - all the way up to 100 lbs. All in all, it wasn't a bad price for all that. I was also kinda hoping it was really a Transformer as well, so it would convert into a robot and help Carmen in and out of the car.

It was not to be. All of that functionality requires a huge base that when in the rear facing position the bottom of the apparatus ended up sortof in the middle of the actual vehicle seat with a big gap that would need to be filled with foam. Probably too big to be safe. That meant that the top of the carseat was right up against the front bucket seats, also not a good thing. At this point, I have to mention how helpful the sales lady was. She wasn't the least bit pushy, but she could see the wheels turning inside our head and offered some basic suggestions. She also asked a few questions about our situation (do you have other kids, other vehicles, etc) to get a feel for what our needs would be. OK, so far not a rant, but wait for it...

She proceeded to explain that there have been some new safety features added to car seats just in the past few months. Here's the one that caught my attention: Car seats now have an expiration date.

Yes - they expire. In fact, most of them have the date stamped right on them, usually 4-6 years from them they were made. Car seats expire. Huh? Supposedly, the reason behind this is that the plastic starts to deteriorate over time, and weakens enough that the seat is no longer safe after a certain period of time. Car seats expire. I suppose that kinda makes a little tiny bit of sense. Car seats expire. But come on! Car seats expire. Am I supposed to believe that since plastic was invented decades ago, we've actually gotten worse at making it? Car seats expire. I mean, I have plastic toys that are older than me. Car seats expire. The chair I'm sitting in, although not the most comfy, is mostly plastic and dates back to 1993.

Car seats expire. I just don't get it.

But, as an expecting father, I'm just learning to accept it. Oh well. Car seats expire.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007


On Jun 1, the standings looked like this...

Today, they look like this...

Down to 2 games in just 2 weeks. Cole Hamels might not win the Cy Young award this year, but he will win one sooner or later.

Probably after the Phillies trade him.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Still holding firm

Just a quick post to let you all know how grateful we are for your love, prayers, and words of wisdom. Our dear Carmen will be home before we know it, and your support really does form the foundation that allow us to get through this stressful process.

One of the most commented on posts from when I first got started was the Rod Chair analogy.

Well, it's almost 8 months later (can you believe that), and the walkway is holding firm. I've had a number of people ask me if it's cracked yet. Apparently, it's just a matter of time before it happens, and a lot of folks are surprised that it hasn't cracked yet.

Well, neither has all the support we've gotten from everyone around us. In fact, in recent months we've gotten to know a lot of new people as well, further strengthening our foundation.
I know this is all sappy, but I just had to take a picture now that the grass is starting to fill in around the new walk.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Progress in Guatemala!!! and some links...

We have 2 updates straight from Guatemala City. Both great news!!!

First, we found out yesterday that our dossier is already in the process of being translated into Spanish. As you might imagine, this is necessary step to complete before our case can be reviewed by the various government agencies in Guatemala. This is a little early evidence that our lawyer there is really on top of his game.

Second, today we received our first medical update since the referral of Carmen.
She's now 10 lbs 1 oz and 22.5 inches! Getting so big already - she's gained almost 2 lbs and grown 1.5 inches.

We're hoping for pictures soon. I believe the doctor's office is located in the same building as the Bethany agency office, so the usually check in with both at the same time.

While I've got your attention, I want to point out some other adoption blogs that I read regularly. In reality, I read dozens of adoption related blogs - some by other adoptive parents, some by adoptees, some by birthparents. All of them inspire me, provide ideas, and insight.

But for now, I'm going to keep my links a little more light. The blogs I've linked to along the right are mostly adoptive parents. Some have brought their children home, some are in process, and some are both!

Oh, and don't miss the new link to Mission Guatemala, a site put together by one of the bloggers and a new friend with an adoption for an awesome little girl in progress. The work she and her organization do in Guatemala is truly amazing. I have great respect and admiration for those who serve the Lord in this way.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Quick update and another FAQ

Just a quick update, then I want to get to explaining some more details. Our referral acceptance documents are on their way to Guatemala! When they get there, the process will really get rolling!

OK, here are a few more answers to the most common questions we've gotten. It's not that we have new information or anything, but some things are better explained after the initial excitement. Hopefully, this won't be too boring considering I posted a similar list a couple weeks ago! Trust me, I've got more detail in this one. If you've actually asked one of these questions, please don't fell like I'm singling you out. In fact, each of these questions has been asked at least 3-4 times, most of them by more than that.

1) Will she ever open her eyes?
OK actually, that's my question. I stare at her picture quite a bit and wonder if maybe her eyes will open. It never happens. We'll have to wait until the next set - hopefully in the next few weeks.

2) Why does it take so long?
This is actually the #1 question, and would take several pages to fully explain. The short answer I usually give is that we have a legal process to go through - not all that different than a domestic adoption legal process. In reality, it is very different, but the point is that it takes time for the courts and agencies there to approve the case. Here's a basic outline

A) Translation and registry of official documents in Guatemala.
*This process for us will start next week, and could take up to 2 months, putting us into July

B) Pre-approval of case by US Embassy, and Guatemala Family court

*Another 2-3 month process, starting in July - putting us into September-October

C) Guatemala Attorney General (PGN) approval process starts after the pre-approvals

*Yet another 3 months - putting us in the December time frame.

D) Final registry in Guatemala and issuance of birth certificate, passport, and visa.

*The time for this can vary depending on what time of year, but it seems to be taking
about 5 weeks right now. Right there, we're into Jan of 2008 under a very good case scenario.

E) Embassy appointment and travel to pick up Carmen!
*OK, here's where it should make sense now that we're saying Jan/Feb of 2008.

3) Do you know anything about her family in Guatemala?
We know a little bit and will probably learn more through the family court process. It'll be up to Carmen when she is older whether to discuss this outside the family. We do know the names of her birth mother and grandparents, as well as her home town, and the name of the hospital in which she born. We will probably get a little more family background information and some additional pictures of Carmen's birth mother, and there's also a chance we will be able to meet her while we're in Guatemala.
I feel a little bad continuing to call her "birth mother" because she is a woman with a name, but we're supposed to be discreet about such things for the time being.
Some people shorten it to BM - I find that distasteful.
Another common term is first mother. That's OK, but I think it's awkward.
Some of you will probably hear us use her actual name in conversation if you have not already.

4) Why did her birth mother relinquish her?
We get this question quite a bit, and I believe it's mostly out of concern for Carmen. It is difficult to imagine why someone would relinquish a child, but she must not be judged in any way by us for doing so. Like I've said before, it's critical that Carmen understand that her birth mother loves her and cares very much about her well being. I think I'll get into explaining this a little more later on.

5) What about that name again?
OK, we've gotten a lot of positive comments on the name Carmen. We just love that name, but to be honest, we chose it way before we knew we were adopting from Latin America. The fact that it's a Spanish name is merely a cooikidink. As I've said, Julia is my late mother's name and we feel this is a good way for the entire family to honor her. López provides a connection to Carmen's birth family. But, after learning a little bit more about her birth name, were thinking about using Maribel - the name she received at birth. Just about everyone that has learned this as her birth name has just loved it as much as we do. But the red-head and I were both thinking about it and are seriously considering using it.
Carmen Julia Maribel? This this might be the way to go, but it's not a decision that need to be final until she arrives home though.

6) I have a friend/relative/co-worker who adopted or was adopted.
To be quite frank - this usually leads to a beautiful story of creating a family or a horror story of red tape or worse. Each individual case is unique, but the general process from country to country is also unique. In Guatemala, adoptions are generally a private arrangement, much like here in the US, with certain government over-sight and safeguards and laws aimed at protecting children and families. As much as this is a family building process, it's also a social service and legal process. There are opportunities for corruption, and I'm sure many of you have seen 20/20 type stories exposing all of that. Yes it still happens, but there are thousands of adoptions that are 100% ethical, as will ours be. That doesn't mean we won't run into problems or red tape, but we hope to minimize that.
As for the positive stories, keep them coming. It's a joy to hear about all the different ways people become a family. Learning from the rest of you, only helps us to become stronger.

7) Are you still planning that Guatemala night?
Yes - not sure exactly when it will take place - probably over the summer. Perhaps it will be a good activity during the dog days of Summer (like August) when folks won't mind spending a couple of hours indoors learning about Guatemala, adoption, and sharing in fellowship. We still need more tamale practice. Stay tuned!

That's it for now folks. We're hoping some more pictures and a video arrive soon. Carmen is now 6 weeks old! I can't wait to see how much she's changed!

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

A toy when it throws the teeth

That would be a teething ring.

Want a better explanation? I could have named this entry "a tinkling one" - but I just didn't want certain google searches coming up with that too easily.

The while a tinkling one would be a baby rattle you see in the group of nifty stuff below. Both items, along with a blankie, an outfit, 2 washcloths, 3 pairs of socks, 2 onesies, a "who loves baby" photo book, and 2 single use cameras. Carmen's foster family will use one camera for themselves, and return the other to us with pictures we can share with Carmen to remember her foster family.

We also included a letter to the foster family just saying hello, explaining what we included in the package, and making sure they know we care and pray for them as well. A dear friend of ours knows a lot about the Spanish language, as well as Spanish and Latin American culture. He was a huge help in translating our letter and giving us advice on the best way to get our point across. Just for fun, we took his translated letter and popped it back into babblefish, just to see what it would do with the newly formulated Spanish. Hence - a tinkling one and a toy when it throws the teeth. Apparently, we're also asking them to "to remove photos from Carmen with its family, so that we pruned ourselves to bring to house after our visit."

Our agency hooked us up with a family who are headed to Guatemala to meet their beautiful daughter. We've met so many great people through this process, and these folks are kind enough help us out. In turn, when we finally get our chance to travel to see Carmen, we'll take packages down for other Bethany families.

We had to fit it all into a gallon size zip top bag. A lot of folks call these "Ziplocks of love" - I'm not sure I want that showing up on a google search either! Here's how it turned out.

It's a pretty exciting step, our first moment to reach out and touch Carmen.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A little more about Carmen

OK, so - I'm sure you want some more details. The first thing I want to say is that please know that just because I have this blog, do not hesitate to call, email, write or whatever. Yes - my blog is a place to provide updates, but it's also about reflection.

Today, we received more information about the information we already have - so that was kinda neat - if that makes any sense. Mostly it was further explanation about some of the documents, including some translation of the standard medical report used by the Bethany doctor for checkups.

So, I think this update should take the form of an FAQ. I must say, it's taken me till now to get back to thinking analytically in any sense. Even now, I can't go more than 10 min without glancing over at one of the pictures I have either in my cubicle or around the house. Better yet - minimize everything on my laptop and I'll see Carmen's beautiful face on my desktop.
OK, I'm back from doing that.

1) Look at all that hair!!
OK, that's more of a statement, but ya - she's got a lot of hair!!!

2) When can you bring her home?
I wish it would be tomorrow, but we have a lengthy process to go through in Guatemala - check the time-line along the right hand side and you'll see what I mean. In a lot of ways, the referral is the beginning of the process!
The time frames typically average 8-9 months. We'd be extremely lucky to have her home by the end of the year which would be about 7 months. More likely, it will be some time around Feb of 2008. This is what we are prepared for, but there are cases that take 12 months or longer if there's paperwork problems.

3) How'd you pick her name?
Carmen is a name that the red-head and I really love. We actually have been talking about using that name for a little girl way before we started the adoption process. Julia is my late Mother's name. López provides a connection to her birth-family.

4) Where is she now?
Right now she lives with a foster family in Guatemala. Much like temporary foster care here in the US, they will work with our agency to make sure Carmen receives all the attention and care she needs and deserves. They have raised four children, and fostered other infants, so they are more than capable.

5) Will you get updates?
Yup. CJ's foster mother will take her to the doctor about once a month for a check-up. She'll also take her into the Bethany office regularly for a progress report and pictures. These will be passed on to us along with her medical reports. The next big thing we're actually waiting on is a video!!! That should come in a month or two.

6) How did she end up being placed for adoption?
We really don't know a lot about that yet. We do have some information about pieces and parts of the circumstances, but that's not the kind of thing I would share on a blog. It's really impossible for us to even imagine what CJ's Birth Mother is going through. As I've said before, she deserves our prayers and respect.

7) Will you get to visit Carmen?
We certainly hope so!!! We have to get through a couple of early steps in the process, then we'll be allowed to visit. If we can arrange and afford it, we'll go for a visit some time in early fall.

8) What will you do with yourselves in the mean time?
Oh, we'll keep busy. I believe it will help that most of the wait will be through Summer, where we can get out and be active more easily. There's still quite a bit to do here at home to prepare for Carmen's arrival. We have her room to paint and arrange - that alone will take some work. We've got a list of chores around the house that will occupy plenty of time over the coming months.

Thank you all for your continued prayers and support!!! Not a lot of variety in the photos, she was pretty zonked out during her visit to the office.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Dear Carmen,

You were born in a small rural village in Guatemala on April 20, 2007. You weighed 8 lbs 4 oz, and were almost 21 inches. You were born healthy, beautiful, and vibrant - well cared for by a loving mother who carried you in her womb.

You are beautiful, sweet, amazing. You are loved by many in your homeland and here in your future home. You will be loved and cherished by your foster family, while your forever family anxiously awaits your arrival in America.

Carmen Julia López - you have arrived in our hearts forever on May 14, 2007.

That's right, we received our referral today (Monday). We signed a bunch of paperwork, made a bunch of phone calls, rode around 2 counties visiting family, and e-mailing like crazy. Now the blogosphere knows about this amazing little baby that just entered our lives. More info and reflection later - it's late - time for bed (like I'll really sleep tonight).

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Friday, May 04, 2007

New Life for Carmen

No referral just yet. It could happen any day now, but not just yet.

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I've been thinking a lot lately about preparing for CJ. Making a room for her, organizing the house. Talking about her with our family and friends, including our nephews, who have heard us discuss her, and oddly seem to understand that she'll be coming home, but not just yet.

Our dogwoods are blooming right now, as I'm sure you've seen if you live in the same basic climate as SE Pennsylvania. What's this have to do with preparing for Carmen to come home? It's about planting new life to represent when she comes into our lives.
I love dogwoods, they have large-ish, but still delicate looking flowers, and nifty crooked and variable(some smooth spots, some rough, dark and light) bark covered branches.

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The former owners of our home (one of whose parents built the place) were kind and loving people who were raised 3 girls here. For each one, they planted a dogwood tree in the front or side yard. So, we have 3 beautiful dogwoods, each one a little bit bigger than the other. The girls were all teenagers when they moved out, so 8 years later, each of those dogwoods are now over 20 years old.

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I really like this tradition, and have decided to plant a tree some time in the next year or so, perhaps this fall in honor of CJ coming into our lives. The problem is we have 2 dogwoods in the front on either side of the walk, then a dogwood and magnolia in the side yard. All of these are nicely spaced so that there really isn't a good spot for a decorative tree out front. So, we'll be finding a spot in the back yard where we have a mix of sun, part shade, and full canopy shade. I have not decided if it will in fact be a dogwood, or some other type - the red-head has always wanted a weeping cherry. I'm open for suggestions!

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Check out the timeline!

As I learned from many a good programmer - stealing code and ideas should be encouraged!!!

So, in that spirit, I got the idea to post our timeline in the right-frame of the blog. Any time I mention a particular step in the process, you can reference this to get an idea of the whole order of things. Hopefully, this will also be helpful for anyone out there considering adoption for your family.

I took the dates right out of my Adoption Project file, which outlines all the details behind these 38 steps. In reality, I have something like 150 steps, but that includes things like reading the 3 books, gathering up additional dossier documents, preparing a will, etc. What you see here are the major "hurdle" type steps that we've completed, as well as the ones projected in the future. The project file also includes all the goal dates, actual dates, costs, and people involved. If anyone would like to see more detail than this, I'd be glad to share a modified version of our spreadsheet so you can get an idea.

As you can see, the next step is doozy - in a good way of course. It will all become very real when we get that referral. We'll have pictures, family background info, medical report, etc. We'll probably know where in Guatemala CJ was born, and possibly the name of her foster parents. We won't be able to share all of that with everyone, but we are very much looking forward to sharing pictures with friends and family!!!

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A red-headed blog

The wife has joined the world of blogging. She's using Wordpress, which is pretty nice - I'm thinking about switching over there.

She's also a more heart-felt writer than I - off to a good start!

Love ya babe!

Joy, Patience, and Faith


Friday, April 13, 2007

Reflection on birth parents

It’s been a while since we’ve had any real news to report. So, I guess we really are totally in the waiting mode now.

That means it’s time to share some more thoughts on the process as promised.

So much of the focus here has been what WE have been going though – preparing the house, interviews, and the mountains of paperwork. I’ve also talked a lot on this blog about Carmen herself, and obviously, we talk about bringing her into our family a lot. There’s a lot of talk about becoming parents.

As we get closer to a referral (which could come in the next couple of months) I think it’s important to consider the other people involved in the process. In adoption lingo, the term “adoption triad” is used extensively. The sides of the triad consist of birth parents, the child, and the adoptive parents. The most over-looked in any discussion of adoption are the birth parents.

Perhaps after referral, I’ll talk with some detail about legal process a birth mother must go through. In short, she must be interviewed 4 separate times, including one where she also provides a DNA blood test along with the baby. In most adoption cases (particularly the ethical ones like our agency conducts), she will receive no compensation at all, save for bus fair and maybe lunch during her counseling session.

So, let’s back up a little bit – and think about how a woman might end up facing such a decision. Why haven’t I mentioned the birth father? Generally, he’s not in the picture by the time the birth mother must make her decision. What about social services? Guatemala has no such agency to assist her. Why can’t she make a go of it as a single mother like many women in the US? In Guatemala, single mother-hood is not widely accepted, and very difficult, especially without a husband to support her. Abortion? Unlike here in the US, abortion simply isn’t a readily available option.

In Guatemala, pregnant women are often caught in between the stigma of single motherhood and the stigma of “giving away” her child. It might seem like she’s seeking the easy way out, but there’s nothing easy about making an adoption plan. It’s clear to me that by doing so, she is doing what she believes is best for her child, but the pain and loss a birth mother experiences must be incredible. In reality, it’s a brave decision, one that we as adoptive parents should not over-look, but can never understand fully.

But in the end, this whole process still revolves around the child. When Carmen comes home, it will be important for her to know that her birth mother loves her very much. This is true in any adoption case, domestic or international, open or closed. Just poke around the web or do some research at the library and you will find stories of women who have chosen adoption for their child. They all express love and concern for the well being of those children, and often some sense of guilt and uncertainty. These are not at all bad or irresponsible people, in fact, quite the opposite. Birth parents certainly don’t deserve any of the stigma that comes with their decision. Anyone involved in an adoption will at one time or another hear the words – “why would a woman just give her child up like that – doesn’t she care?” Adopted kids should also not be forced to think of their parents in such a negative (and incorrect) light. They should know that it actually IS about caring.

It’s my view (and this is a newly developed opinion) that most of the time, the best-case scenario for any child is to stay with her birth family. Children should only be placed for adoption when it just isn’t possible for her parents to raise her. How can staying at home possibly be best in a place like Guatemala with such extreme poverty?

Let me tell you, my dear sister sponsored a child in Guatemala for several years, and when she learned about our adoption plans, she lent us many of his letters and information. Jose lived with his family in what amounted to a 1-room house with a dirt floor. His father had to walk for miles every day for work. They lived on about $40 a month. My sister sent $20 for the sponsorship.

If you read his letters without knowing all of that, you’d only know Jose as a bright and happy boy who loves school, church, and more than anything – fishing with his father. He loved his family and they took care of him well. There’s no reason to think that a kid like Jose would be happier to have been adopted by an American family. There’s no reason to think he would choose to leave his family or that they would wish they have placed him for adoption. In the same sense, we cannot view Carmen coming to our family as our saving her from some horrible life. We will never know with certainty all of the circumstances around her birth family.

This is simply the plan God and her birth mother will choose for her, and when the time comes, we will answer the call to be her parents.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Things are getting exciting around here!

We continue to wait. I know that's not the first sentence you were looking for when you fired up my blog today, but that's still our current status. It's really hard not to be getting excited though. We've been on the waiting list about 2 months, and while Bethany does not tell it's clients their position on the list, we do know that referrals continue to roll in, so we're making progress. Also, one online friend of ours has heard the wait times could be as short as 2-4 months for a girl, but we've also heard 3-6 months. So, realistically, we're looking at May or June to finally see a picture of our Carmen. Lately, I've really been thinking a lot about welcoming her into our family, kinda like this post from many months ago.

I'd been hesitant to post this specific of a time frame, but I know you're all anxious as well. It's just that I'm so excited to become a father. Easter is one of those times of year (like Christmas and to some extent Halloween) where parents work very hard to provide something special for their kids. An Easter basket full of candy and toys, a brightly colored Spring dress, or a tasty family meal.

Holidays are a important in our household. We're known for celebrating birth week, not just birthday. Thanksgiving is a huge deal for us, and the red-head likes to celebrate Christmas from the day after T-giving all the way into January. These are the times when we truly find it hard to contain our excitement - I just know that the long road to becoming a parent will be worth-while.

At this point, we feel like we've made some progress down that road. It's quite possible CJ has been born by now - referral paperwork usually does not reach the local Bethany office (after being processed in Guatemala) for weeks or even a couple of months. So keep us in your thoughts and prayers over the next weeks and months, and maybe we'll have some truly exciting news. And stay tuned for some more in-depth thoughts on adoption, and not just the process, but the people involved.

Happy Easter!


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The unexpected adoption

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 to the mailbox today and... well, we got an I-797C.

A what?!? An I-797C? As in, we're going to have a baby?!?

It looks that way.

But how? We've been so careful! I put away all the blank I-600A 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 go our I-797C, eh? But that doesn't always mean you'll adopt, does it? I mean, shouldn't you see the agency or something, make sure everthing'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 happpy about this.

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

Author Unknown

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Uncle Sam officially says - "Go for it"

This is the most glorious envelope in the history of envelopes - and it arrived in our mailbox today.

Why? Well, inside this envelope was the first of 2 things we've been waiting on - our USCIS approval. This is necessary before we can receive that referral. At this point, the US immigration service has officially said we are permitted to bring home CJ, and have informed the US Embassy in Guatemala of our intentions to do so.

So now, there's nothing standing in the way except time. We're close to 2 months into the wait, so I'm sure we've moved up the list a bit by now!

Anyway - this is actually a huge step - the Red Head cried when she saw it, but unfortunately I was at work and didn't get to see her initial reaction. Let's just say we've been on cloud 9 all evening, and it'll be another sleepless weekend, just due to all the excitement.

Hopefully soon we will have another envelope that will blow this one away!

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

An Authentic Wait

I guess I'm determined to make a reference to our being in a waiting phase in every post until we receive a referral. But, we did get some good news yesterday. Here's what our social worker passed on from the Bethany home office:

"We received the dossier for the Shumate family back from authentication today."

This is the one area of dossier prep that I had not fully understood until I just did some reviewing of our instructions and other research. You see, in most of the instructions, we are told which documents require "State Seal and Authentication." So, for some reason I just assumed they went together hand in hand - that the state did the authentication and seal. The SW corrected me a couple months ago and said, no, we send the dossier for authentication once you get all those state seals.

I was thinking it was something akin to an expert signing off one last time on their legitimacy kinda like a certificate of authentication for a famous person's autograph. If I recall, I even used this comparison before.

Well, sorta, but not quite...

In actuality, these documents are even more like gold now. They have been authenticated by the Guatemalan consulate in NYC!!! That means a representative of the Guatemalan government has seen them and said - yah, they look like the real deal.

Of course, that's not technically getting us any closer to Carmen, but it does mean our paperwork is in order at this point, and hopefully will not cause any delays later on in the process. That doesn't mean a speedy process, just hopefully one less thing to worry about after referral. Did I ever tell you that our agency and social worker are awesome?

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