Sunday, September 30

Homestudy paperwork complete!

Our homestudy paperwork including 4 background checks (Department of Children and Families, local, state, and FBI), and our health forms complete with blood test results will be in the mail tomorrow! This should complete our homestudy and hopefully it will get sent to the USCIS this week! Once it gets to the USCIS they will have all three parts (so long as they accepted Mike's digital fingerprints!). These are the application, digital fingerprints, and the homestudy. Then it's a waiting game to get approval :)

Thursday, September 27

Our kiddos



I finally got some new *decent* pictures of our two kiddos! Lately all I have gotten are closed eyes and shy glances. Here's another peek at Kristopher and Brianna. The kids were thoroughly enjoying some pizza, so yes, that's food all over Kristopher's face :) These were taken on Tuesday evening. I can't wait to have Aleksa in on the pizza messes!

Wednesday, September 26

FBI Prints

YAY! This was the last piece for our homestudy! The fingerprints that we sent to the FBI are back with their stamp of approval :) What's weird is that it's ONLY a stamp of approval. There's a paper stapled to the fingerprint card that we mailed in saying "Please note the stamp on the back of the enclosed fingerprint card." And on the back of the finger print card? A small stamp that says "No arrest record" with the date. Is that weird or what?

Tuesday, September 25

One more down

We now have our completed health forms with notary! Only we didn't get the doctor's stamp :( I will go back and see if they will just add that. I sure hope so. Our homestudy is just waiting on the FBI check to come back (not the digital federal one- the basic one that we were fingerprinted locally for). We're getting closer!

Monday, September 24

Kristopher's getting it

Kristopher is really asking questions now about whether there's really a person named Aleksa and she's really coming to live here. He's often asked where her parents are or if when she stays with us if her mom and dad will come and get her like the baby that I watch during the day. We've explained to him that she doesn't have any parents right now and his mommy and daddy will be hers too. Also, that she will be his sister and this will be her home. Noone will be coming to pick her up, she's here always.

Well... I guess he's listening, even if he isn't fully understanding yet! Today at Wal-Mart an older woman said hello to the kids and asked him if he has a granny. He said 'no' but I told him that he has a Grandma and a Grandmommy, and those are all the same as Granny. Ok, he got that. Then he replied with "I don't have any parents either!" So I asked who I am and he said "you'll be my parents later." LOL I explained to the very nice lady (with a very shocked face!)that we are adopting and he has recently been asking many questions about the child's parents... Who'd have thought he would go around telling people that HE doesn't have parents?? I guess sometimes all you can do is laugh!

Saturday, September 22

Terminology

USCIS or CIS: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
INS: Immigration and Naturalization Services
Homeland Security: includes the CIS and the INS
I-600a: paperwork- we file this petition to adopt an orphaned child internationally
I-171H: paperwork- the 'ok' that is sent back to us from the INS to adopt
SDA: State Department for Adoptions (in Aleksa's country)
dossier: paperwork packet for adoption
apostille: state level notary stamp
Ds: Down syndrome
SN: Special needs

Digital Fingerprints- Please Pray!

Today we had our federal digital fingerprints done. These are the 'official' ones done by the USCIS that are used to get us homeland security approval for adoption. We had a babysitter come to watch the kids, drove to Orlando, found the office then had a quick breakfast at Burger ing since we were pretty early. Then we went back to the USCIS office, did our fingerprints and were finished by 9am (our actual appointment time). When I finshed mine Mike was already waiting for me. "We may have a problem with mine," he said, then showed me his thumb which has a large area of skin missing where he'd gotten a blister and it had peeled. The man taking his fingerprints said it's all a matter of who looks at the prints. So we are asking for favor in this!! Please join us in prayer that the person who looks at his fingerprints will allow them through! It takes 2-4 weeks for processing before we would be notified that he needs to redo them (yes... ANOTHER redo :( ) and then it would be another 2 weeks or more before his appointment and another 2-4 weeks processing. This would add 4-10 weeks to the adoption process.

In better news, our FBI fingerprint cards that were sent out for our homestudy were delivered, which means we may get that finished up soon. Also, our drug tests and bloodwork are back so Tuesday we will be going back to the clinic to finish up our health clearances.

Your item was delivered at 11:11 AM on September 17, 2007 in CLARKSBURG, WV 26306.

Thursday, September 20

FDLE letters :)

We now have in hand our FDLE (state level) criminal record clearances! On agency letterhead with a notary :) And... on the first try! LOL We also got the call today that our drug and blood test results are in and we can schedule our follow up appointment for the doctor to complete our paperwork. YAY! Now we are only waiting on the FBI clearance and for Mike to get 30 min to go down and get his local clearance redone with only criminal info and not traffic. Then our home study will be COMPLETE!

Bed time

Each day when I log in to this blog I look over at the clock on the side and wonder what Aleksa is doing right now. It's 1:30 here and 8:30 where she is. My two at home are napping and Aleksa is probably going down to bed. I wonder if she falls asleep easily, if she has a toy to hold, and if she sleeps through the night. Does she flop around in her bed like Brianna does? Is there always a child crying somewhere or is it quiet at night? Is she warm enough or even too warm? Did she get enough to eat today? It is so sad to know she's half way across the world, but that she's already mine in my heart, and I can't hold her yet. In the great scheme of things a few months is no time at all and very soon she will be here resting with our other two kids. But for now it is hard knowing we can't soothe her if she wakes at night or tell her we love her ourselves. It's another step of faith to not worry, to know that our Almighty God has a plan for Aleksa and that she is in His hands now and forever. Our earthy flesh says that I want to see her with my eyes, but my spirit knows I can trust.

My prayer today is this: "God, I want so badly to hold my child on my lap and tell her I love her, but I cannot. So will you embrace her today and tell her of Your love?"

Wednesday, September 19

Saving the world

I love this story and read it again the other day in a book called Adoption Miracles by Karen Kingsbury. I don't know who the original author of the story is. Here is my paraphrase...

A little boy walked along the shore one day after thousands of starfish had been beached in the sand. Each step of the way he bent down and picked up a starfish and threw it back in to the ocean. A man walked by and told the boy that he'd never save them all, why even try? The little boy looked at the man, bent down, picked up another star fish and replied "it mattered to this one" and threw it back in to the ocean.

No, we can't save the world, but we can make a difference one child at a time...

Monday, September 17

Learning...

Although we have a daughter with Down syndrome (Ds) already, there are so many things for us still to learn. Especially in the area of an older child with Ds. Therapies, schooling, and that type of thing are still unknown to us in the 'over 3' category when therapies switch over to the school system. Also, having any internationally-adopted child, especially one from Eastern Europe, lends itself to a whole set of medical things that we should be testing upon arrival (anemia, rickets, lots of nutritional stuff). Then there are the things that are connected with Ds (thyroid and cardiac especially). And the fact that our pediatrician of 3 1/2 years that has seen both of our children exclusively since birth has just moved and we need a new pediatrician! So we will be spending a little while 'learning' and figuring out where to even begin searching for info in each area. Any advice??

Saturday, September 15

Paper pregnancy first trimester

I realized today that we are PROBABLY about 6 months from traveling to meet Aleksa. So in terms of our 'paper pregnancy', we are just finishing the first trimester! LOL Just like a typical pregnancy we didn't necessarily 'find out' until a little ways in. Things went very quickly for us this first month or so and for this we are BLESSED! Our journey began on August 7th when we received an e-mail that a local newborn with Ds was in need of immediate foster placement. Although we didn't even consider fostering this child as a possibility, the e-mail made us stop and think. We realized maybe we should start the process that would likely take 2 years or so in order to adopt. Little did we know that about 6 weeks later we would be completing all of our paperwork, home study, and security clearances and hoping to fly across the world to meet our daughter in just 6 months! That would be mid-March, which sounds about right.

I must say that the weight gain, nausea, and tiredness of our two previous babies were much worse than this one! Then again, the paperwork and health visits just might make up for that LOL. And just like a typical pregnancy as time goes on we will be sitting and waiting, wishing the day closer- and there will be nothing we can do to speed it up. I will say I am looking forward to this 'labor and delivery' with much more joy and anticipation than I did for our first two. Hopefully the emotional roller coaster will not replace the physical pain that we're not having to go through!

Friday, September 14

Friends

Today we had some friends over. T is Kristopher's little friend in school and she has been wanting to play with Kristopher for a little while. He was very excited about it too, and they played so well together! T's parents are also in the process of adopting internationally! They are going to adopt a baby from El Salvador and began the process in May. We sat and compared notes, time-lines, requirements, etc. and can I just say that I'm glad we're doing this independently? Their agency is helping them every step of the way, yes, but they're also holding them back from being able to have several things going on at the same time. We started in August and have caught up with them, if not surpassed them in paperwork already. I'm so glad they are adopting, they are wonderful people and have two sweet children already! I am also glad that we're not on the same time-line because I don't have the patience that they have!

My passport was delivered today :) It's different than Mike's. I thought that was weird. Our friends' passports are also different from one another (his and hers). I wonder if they're different based on gender?? Mine's much prettier than Mike's anyway LOL!

Your item was delivered at 11:32 AM on September 14, 2007 in TITUSVILLE, FL 32780.

Thursday, September 13

Passport Enroute

My passport is on its way back! That was quick! I turned in all the paperwork last Tuesday and my USPS tracking number shows that it is on its way to me now. YAY! I sent out our fingerprint cards to the FBI today. This isn't the 'official' digital FBI fingerprints that we need for our I-600a, this is the card they do locally that I sent in. It is for our homestudy.
We are now waiting on Department of Children and Families, Florida Department of Law Enformcement, and FBI clearances to be processed, my passport to arrive safely, and to do the official digital FBI fingerprints (next Saturday). Then our homestudy will be complete, get sent in, and we will wait for INS clearance (I-171H). Confused yet?? :)

Wednesday, September 12

What's a dossier

Basically it's the packet of papers that get sent over to the foreign government. Every document has to be a 'certified copy' or an original, needs to be notarized with both a county stamp and a state stamp (called an Apostille). Here's what it includes:
  • Homestudy
  • Agency license
  • Social workers license
  • Letter from homestudy agency stating social worker's employment status
  • I-171 H approval letter from INS
  • Photocopy of parents passports on one piece of paper
  • Local and State police clearance letter
  • Letter of employment
  • Letter of Health
  • Marriage certificate
  • Petition to Adopt
  • Letter of Obligation
  • Power of Attorney
  • Returned/Rejected Dossier letter
  • Cover letter

Now for another Re-do

When I got home from our wonderful adventure with blood draws, fingerprinting, and getting our local criminal checks I realized that they didn't just run a criminal background, but also traffic! So although my record is signed on that lovely line that says "initial here if no offenses"... Mike's isn't. His lists a ticket from running a red light in 2003! He has to go back and ask for JUST a criminial check now. After the rough time we had getting what we've got, I hope it's the same ladies there so they can do it easily! And if it doesn't look like mine, then I have to re-do mine as well just so they are the same form. So Mike had to re-do his drug test (because the nurse labeled it wrong) and now his background check as well. Hopefully that's all the re-do's we have to do, since those are both relatively easy things to get.

Monday, September 10

The real test of adoption

is not whether or not you will commit to love and care for, provide for and include, raise up and teach... it is whether or not you can make it through the process to get them!

Today I decided I should get my bloodwork done since Tomorrow is already booked pretty tight and I don't want to wait too long to do it. So I load up my two kiddos and the baby that I watch (5 mos old, I will call her Bella). We get in the car, drop by and have lunch with my husband at the church, then off I go to the hospital to get my labs drawn.

Not too complicated- sign in, they give you a buzzer (the hospital has a huge atrium area and the lab waiting is in there- thank GOODNESS!) and you wait for registration. And you wait...and you wait... and you visit the bathroom with your 3 yr old, and you go to the car for a bottle for the baby (might as well get the entire bag so we don't have to make another trip). And then you finally get called for registration. Turn over your insurance info... and wait... Wait for them to upload you in to the system, change addresses, make sure you're still married to the same person (seriously, they asked me that). And of course comment on "Are these ALL YOURS??" Luckily, I could answer "No"! LOL After registration they send you back in to the atrium for yes, a little more waiting. We looked at the fountain, made laps around the waiting area, toured the seating for the cafeteria, explained to Kristopher about 50 times that no, we wouldn't be climbing those beautiful winding staircases nor would we be riding the elevator today. It's lucky that Leo and Annie (from the Little Einsteins) hitched a ride or we would have been very out of luck. Finally we settle (for about the 10th time) in to some chairs and Brianna was making enough fuss to want out of the stroller (of course I was holding Bella the entire time since she wanted nothing to do with the carseat after getting out for her bottle). So with two girls on my lap, the stroller parked in a 'no parking zone' and Kristopher making laps around both the stroller and me, they call my name. Hmm... now what? Toss two girls into chairs, clean up the entire ensemble of Little Einsteins (along with a machbox car and his sunglasses, the buzzer and my paperwork...), and follow the lady through the double doors.

Now I have to brag on the nurses though. I come in with three kids, two girls that are obviously unhappy about the quick way they were put down and their lack of movement in the now still stroller, and the nurses did not run away. In fact, another came over and cooed at Bella while she told of the tragedy of being put down. Kristopher was enthralled with the idea that MOM was getting the shot, and Brianna sat like a princess making eyes with other nurses as they roamed the halls- since of course with a double stroller we were all pretty much in the hall!

I do believe that the reason that they needed bloodwork done may not have been for the actual blood tests at all, but for the test of GETTING it drawn! CAN you survive going to the hospital with three children and waiting forever? There's never a boring day... never at all.

Best of all, that's not the end. We then proceeded to the bank and on to the Sherriff's department for fingerprints. By this time I'd talked Michael in to joining us and it was a much smoother process. Then off to the records department for local background checks and HOME AT LAST! So, we can check off bloodwork, local background checks, and fingerprinting! YAY!

USCIS is quick!

We sent paperwork out on Tuesday and got our reply on SATURDAY! (which we didn't know about until Sunday when we finally got the mail ;) ) Our FBI fingerprint date is the 22nd! I am so impressed by the speed in that since I was told it could be a few weeks before hearing back and then a month or so before our appointment date. Little did we know that we'd have an appointment just about 2 1/2 weeks from the date we sent it out! YAY!

Saturday, September 8

Delivered, YAY!

USCIS Paperwork:
Your item was delivered at 11:46 AM on September 5, 2007 in ORLANDO, FL 32827.

Meredith's Passport Application:
Your item was delivered at 11:54 AM on September 6, 2007 in PHILADELPHIA, PA 19101.

I realize this matters to noone but us, but we plan to use this as a journal of our entire journey, so you'll have to excuse the useless info :D

Meredith

Friday, September 7

Want to see??

We were just given a link to our 'sponsorship' page on Reece's Rainbow. I didn't realize they would do this, but on my 'private' link Aleksa's picture is on there! Don't be thrown off by the name, it is a nickname. So all of you across the country whom I told couldn't see her yet- here ya go!

http://www.reecesrainbow.com/sponsorcornish.htm

"APPROVED"!

Well, 5 hours later... we have an 'approval pending background clearance'!! Whew! We really enjoyed Dr. Brown and his wife Lynn and would recommend them to anyone- whether for counseling or for a homestudy. They were very easy-going, very approachable, and very knowledgeable. Each of those things made the homestudy SO MUCH easier than it could have been. We spent the evening talking in the living room with the kids playing in there (and all over the place!). Kristopher was so excited that they were there that he ran around the house like a little wild man, wouldn't listen, and threw a fit when put in time out. Surprised? LOL Not OUR little boy! Oh yes, he was in rare form. He did eventually calm down and was back to his sweet self until bedtime, when we know that it's not RARE, it's ALWAYS for him to be a bit beligerant!

Dr. Brown joked that we "passed the test, I slipped him a little something to see how you'd react to his behavior, great job!" LOL He was a neat guy. We are looking forward to the ongoing relationship we will have with him and his wife since they will also do our post-placement reports at 6, 12, 24, and 36 months after we're home.

For now we have a digital copy of the rough-draft of our report and we're to check it over for accuracy, fill in a few blanks, and send it back to them! We will get our finger prints done, send out some other background clearance stuff, and get the bloodwork for our medical paperwork in the next few days.

Today was a big one- glad to have it over with, but we honestly DID enjoy the homestudy and hey- they house looks great now ;)

Thursday, September 6

Tomorrow's a big day!

Tomorrow is our homestudy! Basically the social worker (and his wife, isn't that neat?) will come out to the house, look over the house, yard, etc. They will also interview each of us and talk with the kids (that should be interesting ;) ). They write up a report and hand us a copy on a CD when they leave. The process takes 4-5 hours. Then we will e-mail them with any discrepancies we have with the report. I'm sure there are a few other things that they will need us to do such as fingerprinting for background checks, but that is pretty much it to my understanding! They are coming at 5pm, so it will be a bit of a late night! We are looking forward to it and are somewhat nervous as well.

Today we had our physicals and drug test. Monday we will try to make it to the lab for bloodwork. Fun stuff, let me tell you! LOL I guess it's all worthwhile because the end result is having Aleksa HOME!

Wednesday, September 5

Background checks...

Nothing exciting today, although I did spend quite some time on the phone with our city police, the sherriff's department, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement trying to figure out background check info. About 8 phone calls later I THINK I have it straight. We can mail out for the state clearance but need to be fingerprinted for local and have the actual local background checks run somewhere else still. Go figure. And somehow we need to find our own card for fingerprinting... should be interesting :)

We also had our family picture taken last night and scheduled our physicals for tomorrow. Lots of little things, but they all add up! Thank you to those that wrote personal references for us!

Tuesday, September 4

Paperwork Filed!

I had 1 hour and 15 minutes to do it, but it is DONE! I filed for my passport today and sent our INS paperwork out. Now we wait on a fingerprint date to get the digital fingerprints done. In the mean time we have our homestudy on Friday and will have some more 'homework' once that is done, such as physicals and local fingerprints. Tonight we will try to get a picture of the four of us. We need one to submit with our homestudy, so hopefully something decent will come of our efforts :) . The last time we had pictures done we didn't get a family shot, so our most recent picture is probably from Christmas!

Monday, September 3

A little about Aleksa

We have been fortunate to find out some info about little Aleksa that we never thought possible. Thanks to a new friend who has held and interacted with Aleksa, we can share a few details of our little one! Aleksa has medium brown hair and GREEN eyes (I told Mike we would end up with a child with green eyes like his eventually!) She is very tiny, an approximate height is 36" and weight of 25 lbs. This is an 'eyeballed guess'. Just a little perspective: Kristopher was about 28 lbs and 36" at TWO years old. Aleksa is 4 1/2. She currently has a very short cut- about 3" of hair all the way around that stands up a little. We can't wait to put bows in it and let it grow a little! In order to be in the orphanage that she is in she is probably day-time potty trained, able to feed herself, and able to be involved with the other children enough that she doesn't require too much individual attention (although what child doesn't NEED it??).

How our adoption will work

Our adoption process will be a little different than some. First, we chose a country to pursue. Then we do all of the paperwork and fulfill the requirements before we travel. When we travel we will be given a referral of a chid. If the child we originally considered is available, then she will be referred to us. If not, then we can know that God has used her as an instrument to lead us on this journey to reach another child. We are not actually 'preselecting' her, but there are not many families interested in adopting these children with special needs, so the chances are VERY good that she will be waiting. If she is not then we would ask for a referral of a 5-7 yr old girl with Down syndrome and go from there. Now I will tell you some more about Aleksa without having to explain this every time. :D

Sunday, September 2

The Beginning

We are adopting! At the request of friends and family I've set this up so you can follow along on our journey. The beginning... We have a child 'in mind' and are planning for a 5 year old little girl with Down Syndrome. For the time being we will call her Aleksa. She will be just over a year older than Kristopher and 3 years older than Brianna, which seems to us like a perfect fit! It looks like we will be traveling to meet Aleksa in March/April and will bring her home shortly after!

At the moment we have scheduled our home study (this Friday!), completed the application for my passport (Mike has his already) and completed the I-600a (Homeland Security petition to adopt an orphan child) paperwork. This week I'll be working on getting copies of Mike's and my birth certificates so that both applications can go in the mail. I also need to get a check cut for the I-600a and a photo for my passport. By the end of the week all 3 pieces will be started.

Soon after receiving our I-600a we should get an appointment for digital figngerprints to be done. Once those are in, the homestudy is done, and my passport arrives we will be on to the first waiting phase! This initial process usually takes about 3 months. We shall see!