Sunday, April 29, 2007

I-171H approval in 7 days after fingerprint appointment

Wow, that notification came pretty fast, didn't it? Kevin called me at work Friday with the news after finding our I-171H approval in the mailbox. Now if we could just have a surprise early referral too! That's a lot to ask for, I know.

To Sherry, I learned a new term this weekend that I think you'd appreciate: retail therapy. I have worked a lot this past week and have resisted urges to self-treat my adoption anxieties with retail therapy. No new little dresses in 2T have found their way to the guest room this week, but I do admit that I checked out the new items on the Gymboree web site this afternoon. The guest room has been filling up with a few dolls, books, clothes, toys, and the high chair that we've collected since last November. The few items of baby clothing I fell in love with and just had to buy are pretty much all in 2T just in case we get an older referral. I don't want to purchase that BabyGap onesie for Hannah to wear home because I don't know what size she'll be. I figure that I can have a onesie printed with the phrase "Are we there yet?" if BabyGap sells out before we get a referral. No biggie.

Tri Kappa Weekend

I spent this weekend at the Tri Kappa convention with nearly 800 of my sisters from all over Indiana and had a great time! Kevin isn't home yet. He spent the weekend computer gaming with the boys and took the dog Sedona with him. I hope they come home soon. I haven't seen my little family for two days! Don't you think I look pretty relaxed in the Sharper Image massage chair that was in my hotel room? Maybe Hannah's nursery needs one of these...

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Mother-In-Law is Coming!

Sorry, Adrienne... thought it sounded kinda funny to exclaim this like it's a bad thing! Kevin and I are looking forward to having his mother Adrienne spend 2 and 1/2 weeks with us while she's exercising her new knees after double knee replacement surgery. She arrives next Friday. This trip may be the last use for the "guest bedroom" (aka storage room when guests aren't around) before it becomes a nursery.

No adoption news. Just looking in the mailbox for our I-171H, or official permission slip from INS that says we're approved to bring an an foreign orphan into the United States. I figure it should arrive in about a week.

I worked with someone last week who became a US citizen last year. She thought it was pretty interesting that she became a US citizen at the same place in Indianapolis where we're getting approval from the US to adopt a child.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Referral Rumors?!

First off... the important stuff from BabyGap: Isn't this the cutest onesie for a flight home from Taiwan with our Hannah Claire?! Okay, now that the important stuff is out of the way... (That's a joke y'all.)

Referral rumors from St. Lucy's! Heartsent is another agency that works to place infants at St. Lucy's. Earlier this month they posted on their web site that they will be getting 9 referrals in the next few weeks. If Heartsent is getting 9 referrals... maybe my agency will be getting a big batch too. And if my agency gets a big batch of referrals... that pushes me way up the waiting list! Maybe a referral for me too, but I'm trying not to go there in my mind.

There's so much to do before we get a referral! I'm still working crazy lots to help with expenses and we haven't worked on putting the nursery together yet. Three college interns have been scheduled to be with me at work for this summer and early fall. I figured they'd keep me busy at work while I waited for a referral.

Kevin's so funny. He just went to the evil empire superstore to buy some bread while I'm writing this post, and came home with a loaf of bread AND a doll. Makes me a little teary eyed to think of Kevin alone at the store buying a doll all by himself. I'd love to have been peeking around the corner of the isle, watching him examine the dolls to choose one to bring home tonight.

As long as I've got the digital camera out, here's Hannah's first piggy bank. It's never too early to learn about fiscal responsibility. That isn't one of my strong points, so she's gotta start learning early. My dad tells a good story about taking me and my younger sister to the bank to open savings accounts when we were little. My little sister brought several weeks of her allowance for her first deposit. I forgot my money at home and had to take out a loan from dad in order to open my account.

Hannah also got a t-shirt from Target when mommy got off work Saturday night. I've admired this shirt from other blogging mommies-to-be, and it just fell into the cart somewhere between the Lean Cuisine meals and I just didn't notice it was there until I got home! (wink wink)

Friday, April 20, 2007

USCIS Fingerprint Appointment Day

Today's the day for our first and hopefully only visit to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Indianapolis office on our "Journey to Taiwan for Hannah Claire." In typical Sarah fashion, I was very nervous about getting to the building on time, finding a place to park, what if we have problems because they spelled our last name wrong, etc. In typical Kevin fashion, we got there just fine. At least half of us didn't obsess about it.

For other adopting parents using the Indianapolis office, there's metered parking on Illinois street to the west of the building. We were there about 40 minutes early and got some drinks in the cafeteria on the main floor to wait until our appointment time. The appointment letters tell you not to come more than 15 minutes early. We took the elevator up to the 4th floor 15 minutes before our appointment and were met by guards that wanded us and searched my purse. I had my camera with me and was sternly instructed not to take any pictures while in the building. Yes sir. We started to stand in line with others, but an employee came out and greeted us... knowing who we were. She brought us some forms to fill out and asked us to have a seat. Just a few minutes later we were brought back into the biometric fingerprinting room with another couple. They cleaned our fingers with a special cloth and took our fingerprints on the scanning pad. I was fascinated by the machine as it scored the quality of the fingerprints as they were taken. Very cool. We were in and out in maybe 10 minutes. No problems with the name spelling problem, and it was fixed very easily. Whew!

Kevin and I did a little shopping at Circle Center Mall, ate dinner at a brewery, and visited my alma matter before heading home. Not much has changed since graduation, except I feel oh so much older when looking at these college kids, and we both have a lot more gray hairs!

Kevin took a funny cheesy grin picture of me at Circle Center mall. Yay, shopping!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

2 months down... how many to go?

This photo is of Kevin tubing at the lake my grandparents live on in Indiana. If you're reading this, hi Grandma! I really like the clear Swarovski bead bracelet from you and Grandpa in my Easter basket. Love you!

Two months already? I guess two months ago I didn't realize that a the submission of the first draft of our homestudy to our placement agency put us on the waiting list. People keep asking me how long. Well, maybe 4 more months until referral, then 4-5 months until gotcha day. That's a definite maybe. Haha. I'm still pondering visiting the baby after we get a referral. People look at me kinda strange when I say that... and say "Ohh... but you won't want to come home and have to leave her there." Well, duh! Of course it would be hard... but I feel like I'd be kicking myself later if we didn't go because we'd miss out on seeing and experiencing her when she's so young. It's going to be hard 4-5 months anyway looking at photos and hopefully video over and over on my computer screen wishing I could be there to comfort her, change stinky diapers, see first smiles, maybe even a first tooth, etc. Sigh. We'll see.

Tomorrow is our big day at the USCIS office in Indianapolis for our biometric (fingerprint) appointment. Big prayers tonight in hope that we aren't hassled tomorrow because they spelled our last name wrong on our appointment notices.
I've been moisturizing my hands a lot this week so that my fingers will make easy scans. Also worrying a little bit that something will happen like I'll cut my finger and then we'll have to wait until it heals and go another day. For the record, Kevin won't let me near him with any girly moisturizer. If his hands are dry and crusty tomorrow and won't scan, he's on his own to come all the way back back another day for rescanning. Or maybe my OPI Avojuice cranberry scented handlotion in my purse would save the day? Now that would be really funny!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Come back, Spring!

I can't believe it snowed last night! It's the middle of April and it looked like January outside this morning. A week and a half ago it was over 70 degrees and we were outside in shorts mowing the grass and picking up debris that blew into our yard over the winter. Our side yard will be a nice spot for a swingset next year. It's out of the way of back porch adult activities like grilling and socializing, and you can watch what's going on while doing dishes at the kitchen sink.

I took some nice pictures during our day in the April sun. The grass looks nice and green when it isn't covered up by snow!

Russia suspends work of foreign adoption agencies

Here's a link to MSNBC's story. Basically, Russia has new standards for accreditation of agencies. These agencies have submitted their reapplications, but the accreditation committee hasn't approved any of them yet. The old accreditations expired Wednesday. My heart goes out to families working with agencies that have their adoptions temporarily suspended. I know that this news is very painful for them. I would be extremely frustrated with the Russian government's adoption accreditation committee sitting on my agency's paperwork!

This is just one more reason I'm so pleased with how international adoptions work in Taiwan. I read on a message board today that people applying to my agency's Taiwan program now may face a wait of a year for a referral. Bad news for Russian adoptions may mean increased wait times for other International programs that are already backlogged from China changes. I read last night that FTIA, an adoption agency in Indiana that we would use if we were adopting from China, has stopped accepting applications for their Vietnam program because they have so many families in the pipeline. Wow. Thank goodness we started this process last fall and not now.

Dresses - Hopes and Dreams

It's likely a good thing that we don't live close to a Target anymore. If we did, I have a feeling that I've had a closet full of dresses and no money for plane tickets to Taiwan. I ended up buying that little pink dress with the beautiful embroidery. It spoke to me. And then it's been such a cold April here in Indiana that I figure Hannah needs me to buy her a little sweater too. And then... this plaid dress with the beautiful green bow just screamed "buy me too", so Hannah now has two pretty dresses. Kevin think's I'm crazy, but I think he likes it because my purchases work as a "get of of jail free card" for the next time that he buys something I roll my eyes at. At least I just have two dresses for Hannah, not a closet full of 50 little dresses.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Dreaming of Easter Dresses

I've been dreaming a lot this week after seeing lots of Easter pictures of cuties in their finest, and even little bear buns running around in the backyard on an egg hunt. Here's the dress I'd choose for Hannah if she was home this year. Yes, it's from Target. Sigh. I thought about going to Target before work today. I think I'd better stay clear of that place. There's way too much estrogen in my mommy-to-be brain today. I might come home with everything and anything pink.

Apparently, we're adoption trendy!?!?

Here's an interesting article published in the Taipei Times. Apparently, we're adoption trendy!?!? Thank goodness for us we're homestudy approved and on a waiting list. Interestingly, Taiwan adoptions still seem like such a small network of people. In this article, the reporter interviewed James Trinnaman with my agency, Families for Children. Also, I follow the blog of Scott and Lani Nimerfro, another couple currently adopting from Taiwan.

Feature: Taiwan becoming top source country for Western couples seeking to adopt
INCREASE IN DEMAND: As China's adoption industry sours on long waiting lists and allegations that children are being kidnapped, couples are applying elsewhere
Monday, Apr 09, 2007, Page 2

Ron Geiger and Rayna Saslove, a hip, filmmaking couple from Los Angeles, seem to have it all: a love-filled relationship, a big house and lots of money. But something has been missing from their 12-year marriage -- something that has driven them to scour the world and pour cash into fertility drugs and face time with top doctors.

Enter a Taiwanese convict: She came from rags and hooked up with a drug dealer, who got her pregnant before the police nabbed them both for selling heroin.

But this woman has one thing that Geiger and Saslove want dearly: the baby boy to whom she gave birth behind bars.

A year ago, couples like Geiger and Saslove were looking to China as their first choice among top source countries for adoption. After all, China -- the No. 1 source of foreign-born children adopted by Americans -- has adopted out nearly 60,000 toddlers to US parents over the past two decades.

But as China's adoption industry sours on long waiting lists, "ridiculous" policies and reports of child kidnappings to stock orphanages there, a growing number of US couples are now looking to adopt from Taiwan, experts say.

"It's just starting to explode," said David Slansky, director of international programs at Oregon-based Journeys of the Heart Adoption Services, referring to demand from Americans seeking to adopt Taiwanese children.

"For a while, our agency served 15 couples wanting to adopt from China for every one couple seeking to adopt out of Taiwan. Now, that ratio is almost reverse," he said.

James Trinnaman of Utah-based adoption agency Families for Children, reports a similar increase in his agency's Taiwan-related workload, saying: "We get a lot of families that have already applied to adopt from China `jump ship' and come to us."

China's new adoption restrictions, he adds, have led to "renewed interest in Taiwan."

Beginning next month, China will bar any foreigner who is clinically depressed, newly married or remarried, whose body-mass index exceeds 40, or who is over 50 years of age, from adopting its children, US adoption agencies said. The restrictions follow China's barring single prospective parents from the US from adopting its children in 2001.

Such restrictions, Trinnaman said, could be for political reasons, as a run on Chinese babies by foreigners casts a spotlight on China's poverty, cultural disdain for girls -- nearly all abandoned babies are female -- and thriving trade in kidnapped infants, who fetch up to US$3,000 per head.

"China's trying to put on a good face ahead of the Olympics," he said.

The restrictions could also signal an "ethnic backlash" by Chinese fed up with seeing affluent Westerners swoop in on their vast population of abandoned baby girls, Geiger said.

"There's something happening politically because China is trying to undercut foreign demand while its number of available babies is still huge," he said.

For Scott and Lani Nimerfro, a film writer-graphic designer couple from Minnesota who are adopting a two-year-old Taiwanese girl, orphanages in Taiwan boast more than just shorter waiting periods and more reasonable requirements than those in China.

St. Lucy's in Tainan, for example -- a Catholic orphanage sheltering more than 30 infants -- provides an exhaustive dossier on each child for prospective adopters, and helps adoptive families maintain contact with the biological parents, Scott said.

"It's very important to us that our daughter stay in touch with her biological mother and cherish her cultural roots," Scott said. "Studies have found that foreign-born adoptees tend to regret losing touch with their original ethno-cultural identities by the time they're 18 or 19."

"Our friends who had adopted from China were just amazed at the information we had access to at St. Lucy's, right down to our daughter's medical and biological family histories," Lani chimes in.

Diana Chen (陳惠鏡), director of St Lucy's, said more foreigners are contacting her orphanage amid a sharp rise in the number of US immigrant visas issued to Taiwanese adoptees. Last year, the US State Department issued nearly 200 visas to "Taiwanese orphans" -- quadruple the number of visas it issued in 2002, its Web site said.

"Inquiries from abroad are through the roof," she said.

Meeting their baby at St. Lucy's for the first time yesterday, Geiger and Saslove's year-long voyage through reams of paperwork and across the Pacific finally culminated in their cradling a baby boy.

He cooed and grinned while Saslove rocked him and blotted her eyes with fistfuls of tissues.

"You know, we just felt right about Taiwan from the beginning," Geiger said, a smile lighting up his face as he reached for a Kleenex.

"We made it," he said.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

thinking ahead, way ahead...

Just dreaming of post adoption journey blog entries! Gotta have a new blog title when we're back. I've been thinking a lot about wanting to travel to Taiwan after we get a referral to visit our little one... but it might make waiting for the final decree even harder to bear. We'd really like to travel and see Taiwan, but maybe it would be a better idea to do it the first time there rather than the second time when we'll be crazed first time parents learning how to care for Hannah.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

I600A biometric appointment set, but they spelled our last name wrong!

I came home from work today to find an important piece of mail in our mail box. We had an envelope addressed from the Department of Homeland Security. Yay! This must be our biometric (newfangled electronic fingerprint scanning) appointment date at the immigration office in Indianapolis! I asked Kevin if I could take his picture with the envelope to document this important step. In usual Kevin style, he humored me... but in his own special way of not smiling for the camera and making funny faces. It wasn't until after I took the photos that I noticed that they spelled our last name wrong! Oh no! I really hope this doesn't cause us headaches to get this corrected. Obviously our home study, driver's licenses, passports, and social security numbers all have our name spelled right. Arg! Our fingerprint appointment is less than 2 weeks away. I'm supposed to work that day. I'm going to see what I can do about switching my work schedule so we can go for our appointment time. If not, I can take a day off from work and we can go any Wednesday... but have to wait for an available agent to help us.

Oh, and someone told me yesterday (yes, again) that I'm sure to get pregnant right after we adopt. Uhhh, thanks but no thanks. Really.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Taipei Times reports Angelina Jolie adopting from Taiwan (April Fool's Joke???)

Here's an article in the Taipei Times that reports Angelina Jolie plans to adopt a 4 year old aboriginal Taiwanese girl. Wow. I'm not sure quite what to think, except that now I could get even more strange adoption comments. I've already had a couple of people jokingly ask me, "Who do you think you are? Angelina Jolie?" Here is another article in the Taipei Times about adoption in Taiwan. Added 4/5/07: This news article may have been an April Fool's Day joke. See comments on this post.

TIVO pick of the week: "Taiwan: The Threatened Democracy"

A couple of weeks ago Kevin had the bright idea to TIVO anything with the keyword Taiwan. We've found a couple of shows on the Travel Channel and PBS that were okay. This week TIVO found something really enlightening on CSPAN-2's BookTV. Take a moment to read the review of Bruce Herschensohn's book "Taiwan: The Threatened Democracy" published by the Taiwan Journal. Professor Herschenshon really sparked my interest in US relations with Taiwan.

Monday, April 2, 2007

insensitive adoption comments and questions

I think we've been living in a bubble! Our family and close friends have been really supportive in our adoption plans and have asked good questions about the process. This past week I've had my first experiences with insensitive adoption comments and questions. This is a great link to a discussion about insensitive adoption comments. Here are some examples of what I've experienced lately:

"Now that you're adopting you're sure to get pregnant." Well, it's possible. But actually I'm hoping not to become pregnant this year because it would delay our adoption plans. My homestudy agency will not allow couples to adopt until at least 9 months after the birth of a biological child to prevent artificial twinning. If we become pregnant now, we'd have to wait awhile to eventually adopt our Hannah Claire. I'm not worried about this subject though. Whatever happens, it will be meant to be.

"Why do you have to pay money to adopt a baby? Shouldn't they just give you the baby for free? You're the one doing them a favor." (While the person looks at you like there must be something unethical involved.) This one really honked me off. I've been working a lot to help pay for adoption expenses, including 6 Saturdays in a row. First off, there are lots of legal costs in adopting a child. Most of the legally required costs (criminal background checks, homestudy, immigration costs, post placement visits) are for the protection of the child to make sure that he or she will not be abused and exploited. Other costs involve paying a facilitator to arrange the adoption for you. Adoption facilitators have families and homes they have to pay take care of too! Our program also involves a $8500-9000 nursery donation that goes to the place in Taiwan (St. Lucy's Child Center or Chung Yi) where our child has been cared for. These donations pay for the round the clock nannies, baby food, clothing, housing, medical expenses, and care for birthmothers. Plane tickets to Taiwan and hotel stay for a week aren't cheap either.

"I know someone who adopted internationally last year and the baby died right before she went to go get it. They just gave her another baby when she got there." Horrible things happen. Babies die here in the United States too. SIDS happens. I'm sure that the caregivers for the child and the adoptive parents grieved for the loss of the child. Many adopted parents describe the emotional loss of loosing a referral (a failed adoption after you already get pictures and information about the child) like having a miscarriage. This is my worst nightmare.

Other adopting families, feel free to comment with insensitive comments and questions that you've experienced.