Sunday, October 29, 2006

Advice Needed

ok, all you great adoption blog readers, I really need your help. R and I received our official acceptance letter from the agency on Friday, including the contract, country guidelines, homestudy guidelines, etc. The contract seems pretty standard (i.e. there are no guarantees, and fees paid for services rendered are not refundable blah blah blah). However, there is one part of the contract that my neurotic mind has latched onto and is gnawing over like a dog with a bone:

....agree that all information provided with respect to the adoption process shall be held in the strictest confidence by both parties and no information or document shall be released to a third party without the consent of the other. Third parties shall include newspapers, internet, and other public media, as well as any other person or organization not authorized to have access to an Applicant's information......

My question/worry/freak-out is this: does this mean I cannot blog? or that I can blog, but cannot disclose the agency's name (which I have been careful not to do anyway, out of some irrational paranoia)? Does this mean I cannot post referral pictures (which is ridiculous for me to worry about at this point in the journey, but if I am going to freak out I might as well do it all the way)?

Gasp...Is even posting that little excerpt from the agreement in violation of the contract? Should I start looking over my shoulder? Carrying mace?

Well, I am off to sign this thing. Hopefully I am not signing away the privilege to blog and hang out here in adoption blogland.

Maybe its the time change, but I think I am getting just a tad loopy over all of this. Or perhaps its the whole "oh wow we really ARE finally starting!"

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Random Thoughts on Madonna and Adoption

Although I rarely watch daytime TV, I did tune in to Oprah today to hear what Madonna (the pop icon, not the religious icon, obviously) had to say about her much publicized adoption of a 13 month old boy from Mawali.
First impressions (and wholly apart from what she actually said about the adoption): 1. since I haven't paid any attention to Madonna since the days of "material girl" and "spank me" (aka, high school days) I was surprised at her subdued, conservative appearance. 2. mature, conservative appearance aside, for someone who has spent most of her life in the public eye, she was decidedly not eloquent. In fact, she stammered, stuttered, and repeated herself. Dunno, maybe its the time change between Chicago and England. 3. What is with that Faux-English accent? (then again, maybe that is why she stammered and stuttered and was not very polished. maybe it is a hard accent to put on).

OK enough nitpicking about her appearance and presentation (seriously, who do I think I am to comment on that anyway?). As for the adoption of little David himself, and wholly apart from the impact of her "star status" upon the adoption process in Malawi, I think that her motives were pure and its unfortunate that the attention is on the "oh big shot star circumvented the rules and adopted this poor boy and took advantage of his "simple" birth father." I don't know about anyone else, but before this media debacle, I had no idea Malawi existed, let alone the extreme poverty and large number of orphaned children. If Madonna's adoption raises awareness even a little bit about the orphans in Africa and orphans worldwide in general, then that is a good thing. a very very good thing.

Also, (and this might get me flamed big time but what the hell I will say it anyway) the birth father of this little boy has probably been hounded by reporters and paparazzi and other such bloodhounds and doesn't know what to think. He wants what is best for his baby, I am sure. In a perfect world, he would have been able to care and feed and love him in his own home. This is not (big shocker here) a perfect world. How dare those people hound him and torment him about his motivations and ask him over and over -"did you know that"-"are you sure you wanted to do this"-"weren't you pressured to do this" -"Did you know this woman was very rich"- and toss other other such antagonistic probing questions at him in the hopes of getting a good "sound bite."

Adoption is never clear cut as far as ethics are concerned. It is not an easy choice for anyone: birth parents, adoptive parents, and child. We are fooling ourselves if we think otherwise. There is pain and loss involved. It is far more emotionally complicated than ladybugs, dragonflies, chosen child poems, culture camps, red threads, and the ever present "God's will" and "God chose this child for me" and "It was meant to be." It is far richer and far better and far more difficult and far more exciting and far more soul searching and far more EVERYTHING than all of that.

Is adoption a wonderful journey? Hell yes! Is adoption a difficult journey? Hell yes! Is Adoption one of the most exciting, most intimidating, most frustrating, most rewarding, most joy filling and most tear producing ways of forming a family? Hell Yes!

Ahem. now I will step off of my soap box and take a few deep breaths. I do tend to get carried away sometimes, but it is my blog, after all. So if I want to make a fool of myself and post it for the whole web to take a gander at, its my choice, right? never get in the way of a determined fool with a motor mouth. ha!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Update on Adoption

Another step, albiet a tiny one, towards bringing our baby boy (or will it be boys?) home, has been taken.
After a lot of thought, discussion, and prayer R and I decided to go with the agency we had first chosen back in January that sent our application back and told us to wait until our one year anniversary and resend it. Despite the dissapointment of having to wait, and despite the knowledge that the "wait" time for referral and travel are considerably longer than other agencies are quoting, all the reasons we chose them in the first place won out. They are ethical, have a great reputation, have been around awhile, and have many humanitarian aid projects going on in the countries they process adoptions in. Also, R had "good feelings" about his phone conversations with the regional director- which seems like a silly reason to choose someone, but I am a firm believer in trusting your instincts.
So....while we wait for that darn CPA to finish his assessment of our business, we filled out and sent in our second application to the agency. The regional director called yesterday and left a sweet message, congratulating us on our one year anniversary and asking us to give her a call.
Up to this point, I hadn't spoken with her, but today I gave her a call. I now understand Robert's "Good feelings." I really, truly, like this person. More importantly, I trust her. So, we will wait longer perhaps than others. We can live with that (ahem, remind me that I said that when I get anxious and impatient, ok?). It is more important to us that our adoption is an ethical one, and our experience a good one.
Our application is on its way to the main headquarters and we should receive our approval letter and contract and other "stuffs" in the mail in about a week. Once we have that in hand and send in our check and signed contract, we then need to give our homestudy agency the information so that they can complete the homestudy so that it fits the specifications for Vietnam. Then the homestudy agency will send in the completed homestudy to CIS (formerly known as INS and also known as USCIS) so that we can get a fingerprint appointment and eventually, the golden grail aka 171H (approval to adopt an orphan).
Oh, and we are also sponsoring an orphan through the same agency's orphan sponsorship program. A very cute seven year old boy in Vietnam who wants to grow up and be a police officer. What a gift to be able to be involved in something positive for a child in Vietnam, and the cost is so small. I am going to send a letter to this little guy soon along with a picture..can't wait for the day we receive a reply from him!
Well, I must publish this and then try to walk the boys (er, dogs to those of you who are new here and are wondering)...there is SNOW on the ground and it is icky wet nasty out. Not so sure this is walking weather, but try telling that to Ben and Bogey!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Things I Have Learned This Week

My first week of working at home has been, well, interesting. This is definitely a huge adjustment for me, and so far I have had mixed success.

First, I have learned that I am not going to make homemaker of the year. I am apparently far to absentminded to be Martha Stewart. For instance, I highly doubt Martha Stewart ever had such trouble brewing coffee and making toast. I, however, have proven that such a simple task can turn terribly wrong if one is not paying strict attention to what one is doing. I woke up early, and was a bit foggy brained as I made coffee. Decided that I probably should at least attempt some sort of breakfast (given that I did not have to rush out the door to drive an hour to work) so I put in a piece of bread in the toaster. Took the stick of butter out of the fridge, noticed that it was hard as a rock, and had the brilliant idea to put it on top of the coffee maker thinking it would soften due to the heat. Worked wonderfully. Toast popped up, spread the butter on the toast, and then (do not ask me why I did this) I put the butter back on top of the coffee pot.
And promptly forgot about it.
Two hours later, after throwing some laundry in, printing up some new orders, and letting Bogey and Ben outside for the umpteenth time, I went back upstairs to grab another cup of coffee.
Ahem. Empty butter wrapper sitting on top of the coffee pot. Melted butter down the side of the coffee pot, all over the counter, etc. A nasty slick mess, to be sure.
One sip of the new cup of coffee (that was quickly spat out) revealed that the butter had also melted INTO the coffee maker as well.
Blech! For those who care to know, it takes about an hour or so to clean up melted butter in a coffee pot.
Also, butter flavored coffee is no good.
Later, in an attempt to redeem my competent home maker status, I decided to make cinnamon roles (from the can mind you, not from scratch). They turned out beautifully! Until I picked one up to take a bite and found it to be suspiciously "heavy."
Not surprising, since I somehow managed to cook the darn thing with the round tin end of the tube still stuck to it.
As my mother is fond of pointing out, I often act very much the "Educated Idiot"
Other things I learned are 1) never trust a CPA to finish a business assessment in the time frame promised when that CPA is also dealing with the end of a fiscal year tax "stuff." Now the "promised" date is monday. Let's hope so, I really want this homestudy to be finished! 2) When there is a world series going on, there is no chance that HOUSE will air. Luckily this is a world series I want to watch, although not my beloved Red Sox, the Detriot Tigers are my second favorite AL team. Even when the lose, like they did last night. 3) When you invite a treasured friend and his wife over to watch the first game of the world series, and it happens to be that friend's birthday do not offer to make him "whatever he wants" for dinner. He just might ask for a turkey (dangerous request given that I so completely messed up coffee and toast earlier this week).

On other news, I did manage to do something I have long wanted to do: incorporate "To Kill a Mockingbird" into a sermon. Today was my turn to preach at church, and the scripture choice was such that I was able to use "To Kill a Mockingbird" My next goal? Why, Harry Potter of course! Might take me a while to figure out how to use that effectively.

On a final note, please send good thoughts towards Detroit today. The Tigers need all the positive energy they can get, if last night's debacle is any indication of how they are going to handle the Cards.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The times they are a changin' and other musings

So here I am, at home, on my second day as a stay at It is a strange transition from working with at risk and homeless youth to staying at home and running the "family" business. So far, so good. While I still have almost no idea what I am doing, processing orders, putting orders together, and shipping orders is a cake walk when compared to "I got kicked out and I have no where to go" and "I am sixteen and pregnant and couch surfing." I wonder if it is possible to have post-traumatic stress symptoms from a job? I have this uneasy feeling that some crisis is looming on the horizon even though I am running a business, not working with homeless kids anymore. It is highly unlikely that I will encounter any drama and trauma beyond "where is my order?" and the internet crashing.

In my now rather abundant spare time (the Christmas rush has not yet hit) I am reading adoption literature. I have gone through just about every adoption memoir in print (two book shelves full) and have now ventured into the "heavy" stuff. Right now I am slogging my way through "Attaching in Adoption" by Deborah D. Grey (recommended by our homestudy worker). Some of it has been insightful, although much of it doesn't seem very applicable to our adoption. Still, the following excerpt gave me pause for thought:
"Sometimes parents find themselves in situations that seem incredible from the point of view of their own culture. Some children are told that the birthparents have finally arrived to get their child. I have heard this explanation a number of times about preperation for children in countries of the former Soviet Union, in which there is no tradition of adoption. One orphanage worker advised parents, "Never tell this child that she was adopted. It will kill her Russian soul." She answered their logical questions about language by explaining that because their daughter was largely nonverbal, she would not question why they were talking a different language. Some children have come into the country angry with parents. Working with a translator, children have wondered , "Where were you? Why did you leave me in the orphanage?" It makes for a confusing beginning for parents and children (Grey, 2002; 131)

um. ok. I sure hope this is not a common occurance. I seriously question the intelligence of adoptive parents who FOLLOW such advice. Obviously, this is not a situation we will find ourselves in: 1. we are not adopting from Russia. 2. we are no adopting an older child. But still, I would like to think that we would have enough sense to roll our eyes at such advice and do the responsible thing - you know, a little thing called honesty? I thought "keep the adoption secret" era had passed. Apparently not. Or at least not for clients who turn to Dr. Grey for advise.

On other news, we are still waiting for the CPA to finish "writing up" the business. Of course this happens to be a busy period for CPAs (end of a fiscal period or some such stuff), so its taking forever for this step to be finished. Our homestudy will not be written up until this information is provided. This frustrates me to no end, as if we had known they wanted this information ahead of time, we would have had it when we had our homestudy meetings. It is not helpful to have the homestudy agency call me to ask me what email address to send the rough draft to, only to then go on to say they aren't ready to send it yet as without the above information "they don't think it will pass USCIS.." Apparently, R's new job is "too new" to be a reliable income source. I do not pretend to understand the workings of the federal government.
So why, I ask, would you not tell me ahead of time about this, and why bother calling me to tell me you want my email address to send the homestudy rough draft, if you had no intentions of even finishing the rough draft without this information?????

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I was surfing the web tonight (as opposed to folding the laundry that is begging to be folded) and came across an article about un-adoption: a family in Virginia who adopted one of their foster children is now in the process of "un-adopting" him. The mother claims that social services did not fully disclose this child's extensive abuse history and the depth of his psychological problems. She is now seeking to "unadopt" the boy, who is currently in a residential treatment center.

It is a very very sad story. Nothing amusing about it.

That being said, I was tickled to death and laughed out loud when I read the name of the church this family attended. Now, perhaps it is because I have a bachelor's in religious studies and a master's in theology, and therefore have a truly odd sense of humor when it comes to "all things religious", but I found the name of this church to be one of the top five best names (i.e. amusing, funny, hilarious, delightful) of churches I have ever read.

The name of the church? (drum roll please)

Sword of Spirit Deliverance Ministry Pentecostal Church*

*please note, I am in no way making fun of this congregation (ok, so maybe just a little, but in a light hearted "I find this truly delightful" kind of way), so please do not accuse me of religious intolerance. Truly, I am making no statements or insinuations about the dogma, liturgy, or ecclesiastical nature of this particular church. (I would never do that. in public. on a blog. ever) If you are reading this and are a member of this congregation, I apologize if this offends you in anyway. I will not, however cut my hand off with the Sword of Spirit Deliverance (or any sword, for that matter) nor will I entertain any other drastic act of antonement. My apology will have to suffice. That, and perhaps I can light a candle.
**Unless of course, the lighting of candles is offensive in your faith. In that case, the best I can do is to be mindful of this offense this sunday when we kneel for the confession of sins. Unless you have something specific in mind that does not involve violence or swords.
****But I draw the line at speaking in tongues. Or waving my hands in the air. Please understand, I am an Episcopalian. We are not rowdy folks. Besides, I was educated by Jesuits. And, while rowdy in their own way, they are most certainly not pentacostal-ly inclined (at least not in the american pentacostal church kind of way). "Slain in the spirit" language is generally interpreted in a "what we did during the crusades" kind of way. Which is not in "vogue" these days. By the Jesuits. Thank God.
I never never ever thought I would say this....but...


I switched dentists recently to a dentist in the town where I work (which isn't really all that clever since Friday is my last day and now I will have to travel an hour each way to go to the dentist, but anyway) and had to go in for a cleaning today.

Not looking forward to it, as I have a serious aversion to the feel of dental floss in my teeth....I HATE IT...seriously seriously HATE IT...I have no idea why, but that feel and that sound just grates on my nerves....

Anyway, I show up for my appointment and the hygenist takes me back to the room.

Barry Manilow was playing on the piped in music. Not a good sign. I am definitely NOT a "Fanilow" of Manilow.

The hygenist: "Before we start, would you like a free hand spa treatment?"

Me: "Wha?" (thinking: is she propositioning me, or what? this is the DENTIST's office isn't it?)

The hygenist: we have this paraffin hand treatment we do, free of charge, if you are interested.

Me: "um, sure, why not?" (thinking: I am not to sure about this, but what the heck, free is free)

The hygenist hands me the two lotions, then has me place my hands in this science experiment looking thing filled with warm wax....when I lift my hands out they look very much like the "mummy hands" we used to "make" in grade school by pooring elmer's glue on our hands and letting it dry. But much smoother. Not to mention, very warm. Comforting. Then she places plastic baggies on my hands, followed by some oven mitt looking things.

The hygenist: "sit back and relax, it's an easy day to day and I promise it won't hurt a bit."

Believe it or not, it didn't hurt a bit. And when she was done, she removed the oven mitt thingies from my hands, peeled off the plastic baggies, and ta da! presto chango and Ala Peanut Butter Sandwiches... I have ultra smooth, soft, terrific feeling hands.

Nice. Very Very Nice.

I do think I love my dentist.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Adoption Conversation

Today was a difficult day at work. A conversation took place between myself and a new co-worker (who has no idea I have this blog, so I am pretty confident this won't be read by that person) that left me stunned, angry, and frustrated.

It is no secret that we are adopting, and my coworkers have been incredibly supportive and excited about the adoption. Two of them came into their families through adoption and have been wonderful about sharing their perspective on adoption and offering advice. Truthfully, I could not ask for better coworkers, or better friends. Because its not a secret, the new co-worker is aware that we are adopting, as well as aware of the fact that I will soon be leaving "the program" in order to oversee our home business and be a stay at home/work at home mom, when the day we bring the baby home finally comes.

Today, in an effort to make this new coworker feel comfortable as she transitions into her new position, we went to lunch together. During lunch, the conversation turned to general chit chat about our lives. Both of us were born and raised in the U.P. and had that in common. Not much else though, as it turned out. This was made glaringly apparent when the conversation turned to our adoption.

Comment 1: I think that oriental kids will be o.k. here, as most people here only dislike orientals because they don't speak English. You know "if they are going to live in this country, they should speak the language."
Comment 2: After all, its not like its a black kid.or a Hispanic kid. So it should be o.k.
Comment 3: That is why I don't believe in mixed race relationships. It is just wrong, and too hard on people.

My reponses? Initially, shocked silence, closely followed by silent outrage. Finally, I made some passively critical comments along the lines of :"I would hope that people would at this point in time be past that kind of Archie Bunker attitude" and "I am not niave, and I am aware that race is an issue and so is racism, but I don't believe that we should avoid the hard work of defeating racism and racist attitudes by "not believing" in non traditional, multi-racial, multi cultural couples and families because it might make some of us "uncomfortable."

As I write this, I find myself tired and frustrated by the whole experience. I wish I had better responses. I wish I was more prepared for the responses. I wish that I wasn't so niave that I did not expect those comments- that someone who took a career in social service -in working with at risk and homeless youth- would be the type of person who is more advanced in their thinking, more compassionate, and more embracing of those who are "other": be it other race, sexual orientation, or religion.

My last day at work is Friday, the 13th. I hope I can make it that long. We work at a satellite program of a larger program, which means there are only three workers: one full time (my position) and two part time positions. When there is tension/dislike/disrespect among any of the workers it can, and is, an unbearable situation.

And I am so ANGRY about the comments that were made! And ANGRY at myself for not handling it better. After all the reading I have done about multicultural, multiracial familes, adoption, etc....I still FAILED to handle it well.

Finally, I am horrified to think that anyone would read our decision to adopt from Vietnam as a decision based on vietnamese/asian children being "lighter" skinned and therefore "better" or at least "not as bad as" adopting an african, african-american, hispanic, or bi-racial child of "dark" skin.

And why do I have to justify, explain, or defend our choices anyway? Why do people think its their business to ask the questions they ask and make the assumptions they make? I am tired of the assumptions people make about our choice to adopt. Tired of the assumptions that it is because we can't have "our own" or "real children", assumptions that there is something wrong with my reproductive system (no one EVER assumes that there is something wrong with R's sperm): is our reproductive functioning, or lack of functioning any one's bloody business ??? [Include here the dental hygenist, sweet as pie, who causually asked "When did you find out you were infertile?"]

And then there are the assumptions that we don't care about the children in THIS country b/c we are adopting internationally...

And now we can add "choosing to adopt an asian child as its better than a hispanic child, or worse, an african or african american child" to the horrifying and anger-inducing assumptions I have encountered.

Clearly, I need to work more on how to respond to these unbelievably crass comments from people. I am sure, sad as it is to face it, that I will continue to encounter these statements or variations of these statements for the rest of my life.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Should I Be Worried???

While the homestudy agency we are working with has been pretty good so far- save for this recent "oh you are gonna need a letter from a CPA...." drama (which made for a really crappy week, but that is a whole other story and probably not blog suitable)-the agency we had all but decided on going with has me a little concerned. Well, not the agency really, more the posts that seem to be popping up more frequently on yahoo groups I am on from people who are complaining about this agency. Apparently the agency we think we are going with has the longest waits of any of them. Of course, I would never choose an agency just based on wait time, but I must admit that I am a bit worried about it.
This is the agency that had the marriage requirement that resulted in us waiting an extra six months to start this process just so we could meet those requirements.
And now I am not so sure it is the right agency to choose.
And maybe its just this has been a horrible week in just about all regards and I am just finding one more thing with which to torture myself.