Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Check is in the Mail and more musings on Adoption

R and I sent in our dossier fee to our agency yesterday. I know it is a bit of a taboo to talk about money (that's private business after all) in our culture, and even more awkward to talk about it in relation to a child (we all shudder at the question "how much did he/she cost?"), but I have to tell you guys, writing a check for 3790 bucks is not for the faint of heart. Perhaps if we were independently wealthy, it wouldn't be such a big deal, but we are certainly not independently wealthy. Now, it isn't a question of is it worth it, because how can you put a money value on a child? It is most definitely worth it. Still, it is a big thing (at least to me) to write out a check for 3790 bucks! I know what your thinking, "if you have such a hard time writing that check out, how are you going to handle paying the country fee (that is around 10,000 bucks)?" Never fear, I will handle it, but I can't promise you that I will just whip out a pen, write it out with a flourish, and send it off without a second thought.
Maybe it is growing up rather poor in a rural community, maybe it is emotional residue from having grandparents who lived through the depression and kept their money in a locked box at the bottom of a wardrobe, and maybe it is just that I have an irrational fear of being broke.....heck it is probably a combination of all of these things. The bottom line is, it freaks me out to write out checks for thousands of dollars.
Ok, now that I have shared my nerousis about money, let's move on to the sibling/twins discussion. The question that I have been asked, by family members and friends, is why would you want two children at once? Are you crazy? (which, I believe, is a completely seperate, if not perhaps valid, question). There are a number of reasons why we have "opened the door" to the possiblity of twins or a sibling group. R comes from a family of ten children- he is very comfortable with living with more than one child in diapers at one time. R has also allways wanted children- there is nothing in the world that he wants more than to be a father. I do not come from such a large family, but I have spent a lot of time in my life with infants and toddlers- as a babysitter, as a nanny, as a sunday school teacher, and as a volunteer in a pre primary impaired classroom (mostly of 3,4, and 5 year olds). My family and friends joke that I am a bit of a pied piper when it comes to kids- for some reason children "glom" on to me when I am around. Two children at one time does not scare us.
As E. noted in her comment on a previous post, a lot depends upon what kind of support system is available to help out with the challenges of taking care of two children at one time. When R and I were in a position to start a family, we recognized the importance of being near family and being a part of a community of friends. That is one reason why we moved back to Michigan (well, it is back for me, as I grew up here) where my mother, sister, brother in law, niece, nephew, aunts, uncles, a zillion cousins, and childhood friends live. We also have friends in this area who have formed (or added to) their family through international adoption. Add to that the fact that we are members of a phenomonally supportive and close knit church congregation, and we have, I believe, one of the best supportive systems we could hope to have.
One of the other major factors behind our decision to be open to twins or a sibling group has to do with age. Yes, age, like money, is not something that our culture is comfortable with discussing. But age, like money, factors into our adoption plans. There is a bit of an age difference between R and I -no, not so much of an age difference that Maury Povich is going to want us on a show about May-December romances, but still a noticable age difference. Because of this age difference, there are many countries in which we would not qualify to adopt an infant (due to R's age). We both feel strongly that we want to adopt more than one child, and we are aware that the possibility of doing two seperate adoptions decreases with the passage of time- that is to say, between age restrictions and the ever growing time frame of adoption in the countries that we do qualify for (i.e. vietnam) the likelihood that we would be able to adopt again and ensure that our children are close in age is not all that great.

The other taboo of money comes into play here: the reality is that adopting twins or a sibling group is financially more feasible than two seperate adoptions. *please do not burn me here with gigantic flames of outrage, I am not saying that we want to adopt two at once b/c it is some great "two for one" deal. I am merely admitting that part of the reasoning has to do with the reality of the financial cost of adoption. One trip is less expensive than two. The extra country fee for adopting twins or a sibling group is less expensive than an entirely seperate adoption. So yes, as much as talking about adoption cost is a major no no, the reality is that adoption does cost money. a lot of money.

Here is probably the most controversial (and flameworthy) reason of all: R and I both believe that it is important to face full on the reality that not looking like us is going to matter to our child. As much as we hate to talk about it, human culture places a high value on blood relations- we identify ourselves by who our parents are, our geneology, wether we are left handed b/c great grandma so and so was left handed, etc. We can argue until the cows come home about wether or not it SHOULD matter, but the reality is that it does matter to people.

We, as parents, will never know first hand what being "adopted" is like - we did not come into our families through adoption. We do not know how much, or how often, our child will think about his birth family - the questions of why, how, why not, etc. I think it would be terribly niave of me to believe that he will never wonder who he looks like (birth mother? birth father?) or whether or not he has birth siblings (brothers? sisters? younger? older?). Adopting twins or a sibling group will not solve all these hard questions about adoption, but it will give both children the comfort of having a brother (or sister) that looks like him/her, that shared the same womb, that share a common history, that have (at least in the case of twins) never been seperated from one another. Perhaps they will feel safer talking with each other about their wondering, their questions, their feelings surrounding their birth family, their country of birth, their adoption, their parents (who are, I freely admit, not going to be perfect parents)- surely there are things that are going to come up that our children are not going to want talk to us about, no matter how hard we work at making them feel they can talk to us about anything and everything.

To quote Charlie Brown "Good Grief!" I have written a mini novel here, haven't it? I am sure that some of you are going to take issue with some of the things I have shared here. If you have taken issue with something, I encourage you to share your thoughts, objections, outrage, feelings, etc in the comment section. I do not pretend to have all the answers or to have thought of all angles of this multi-faceted complex reality of adoption. We are trying to make the best choices that we can, for ourselves and our future child(ren).

To quote School House Rock "KNOWLEDGE IS POWER"- so please do not hold back in sharing your knowledge with us.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Adoption Decisions

I want to thank all of you who commented on my previous post about changing our "age range." as well as your comments on adopting two children-siblings or twins- at one time. All of you have been so generous with your time and comments that I feel it is only right to respond to each one of your posts individually, so here we go:
Destination Motherhood: Thanks! We are happy to be on the waiting list! You're right, it is a very hard decision to make, and I feel much better hearing you say that we can allways change our mind.
Jo- Thanks for sharing your own experience with making a decision regarding age and twins. As you can guess, R and I have had many similiar conversations. It is comforting to know that we are not the only couple who are having such conversations.
Rachel- Thanks for your congratulations! I think you are right, expanding our age range six months is probably not going to make a huge difference in our wait time. 24 months would probably shorten the wait time, but R and I both agree that we are not comfortable with 24 months. This is our first child, and we both want to experience as much of "babyhood" as we can. I also am of the same mind as you are- parenthood is hard work, but if we are going to be without sleep anyway, why not twins?
E.- Post all the long responses you want! I am allways open to hearing what you have to say. your blog (Looking for George) is one of my favorite blogs to visit. Your discussion on the developmental difference between 12 months and 18 months was very helpful, and was one of the major discussion points R and I had in discussing the possiblity of changing our age range. I have had quite a bit of experience with the terrible twos, and, as quirky as it sounds, it is one of my favorite ages. That being said, going from no children to a child in the terrible two's sounds like a bit much to take on. As for the twins question, we do have a lot of suppport from family and friends. One of the reasons we moved to Michigan was to be closer to family so that we would have a wealth of relatives and others to share in the lives of our child(ren). Also, I have left my full time job working with homeless and at risk youth and am now working full time at home running our family business. So, I will be a work at home mom. My mother, sister, niece, nephew, and friends from church are all eager and willing to help out during the day time if we were so lucky as to be referred twins. Also, my niece is starting college next year, and we have talked with her about spending some time at our house (the college is very nearby here) helping out with the business and the baby(ies).
As for sibling group, I agree with you that it is the most difficult scenario. It is also the most unlikely scenario, as sibling groups in Vietnam are uncommon. The most realistic expectation is one child, and the unlikely, but possible, scenario is twins.
LaLa- what can I say, girl? your support has meant so much to me these past few months that we have gotten to know each other. The quotes you have shared are wonderful- in fact, I have used one of them in my "quote of the week" section of the blog. Henri Nouwen is one of my favorite writers, and the quote from St. Francis de Sales is one I have not encountered before. Thanks for sharing both with me!
Dawn- Thanks for reminding me that anything is possible, and what we think we want is not allways what works out, or what is right for us. Everything will work out, in the end, right? Allways great to hear from a fellow yooper...look us up one of these days when you are in the area!
So, I bet you are all wondering what decision we have made regarding age range. (ok, so your probably not wondering, but I will tell you anyway). For now, R and I are going to leave things as they are, knowing that we can change things later if we so choose. While we definitely do not want to wait any longer than we have to, we do not want to make the decision to up the age range simply because it might make things move faster. That, to us, would be the wrong reason to go from 0-12 to 0-18 months. This is, after all, a life changing event, not to mention a permanent one, and I do not want my impatience with waiting cause us to disregard the reasons why we chose 0-12 months in the first place. We did give a lot of thought to this matter prior to and during our homestudy, and the choices we made regarding age, gender, and being open to twins or a sibling group were decisions that we did not make lightly or easily.

I will blog more about the "twins" and "sibs" question in my next post (I simply must get offline and get back to work!), as the reasons why we are open to that option might help illuminate for all of you why I am so interested in what people who have BTDT have to say about the experience. Which might, in turn, generate more comments from all of you- and what is better than having comments on your blog?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Wait List and Age of Referral- Wrestling with Questions

R and I are officially on the wait list. Specifically, we are on the wait list for a single boy, 0-12 months (open to a girl), or 2 children: twins or sibling group, either gender, up to 36 months of age. This is in accordance to what was stated in our homestudy, although its not quite as clear as it should be. The 36 months of age "thing" was directly in relation to a sibling group that was not twins: if a sibling group was available, 36 months of age is our upper age limit for the oldest child.
It has been suggested to us that we consider expanding the age of a single referral from 0-12 months to 0-18 months. Now, you might ask me (and rightly so) why this would even be up for debate, given that we have allready said we are open to a sibling group with the oldest child being 36 months. And, (you all will love this) I do not have a good answer for that question. For some reason, I am wrestling with making this change in age range (yes, that rhymes, and no, I didn't do that on purpose).
I believe that part of my hesitancy is this: if we do expand from 0-12 months to 0-18 months, this might shorten our wait time for a referral of an infant boy. A good thing, right? (seriously, we all know how short on patience I have been lately) However, I can't help but wonder this: If we do not expand and stick with our 0-12 months for an infant boy, will it increase our chances for twins or a sibling group?

Not sure if that is clear, or logical, but then, welcome to the workings of my bizarre brain.

Of course, the related question to ask is this: are we ready, and able, to handle two children at once? Two children the same age (twins) or two children of different ages: an infant and a toddler? There are many reasons why we asked for approval for two children, and many reasons why we are asking to be considered for two. But, we do not have any children, this is our first "run out of the gate" so to speak- so we may be (ahem. you experienced parents are thinking "no may be about it, you are) unrealistic and idealistic about going from no children to two children.

I realize the chances of a referral of twins are slim to none, and the chances of a referral of a sibling group is practically non-existent. So this may be a futile discussion, but I am nothing if not optimistic (unrealistic?) so I would love to hear what you, dear reader, have to say about adopting two children at once (two related children, mind you. not two unrelated children. That is, I believe, an entirely different issue).

Truthfully, we will most likely be referred an infant boy. Our worker as much as said so to me on the phone the other day. Which is, of course, absolutely fine with us. So my second question is this, given that the most likely scenario is a referral of an infant boy, how much of a difference is it going to make to increase our age range from 0-12 months to 0-18 months? Are we making "Much Ado About Nothing"?

The floor is yours, my friends. Be honest, be frank, and tell me what you really think.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Adoption News

Our I-171H arrived in the mail on Saturday!!!! How cool is that? We were expecting a very long wait, as a few months ago Michigan was taking many many months to process I600A applications. Our timeline?
application received: December 1, 2006
Fingerprinting "adventure": December 27th, 2006
Application Completed: January 12, 2007
Approval Mailed: January 17th

Not Bad, huh?

R is faxing it to our agency right now, so as soon as they receive it we will move from the "waiting to wait" list to the "waiting for referral" list.

Oh, and USCIS approved us for 2 children. We are hopeful that twins will be referred to us, but are realistic enough to not expect it. Still, a gal can dream, can't she?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Letter From Vietnam

A few months back, R and I signed up to sponser a young boy from Vietnam through our agency's sponsorship program. We felt it was one small thing we could do to "give back" to our future child's birth country for the honor and blessing of raising one of Vietnam's children. A few days ago, we received a letter and photos of our sponsor child. All of you know that I have been having a hard time lately mustering up the patience necessary to "make it through" the waiting time. Receiving our sponsor child's letter and photos was a tremendous gift that came at just the right time. Below is a translation of his letter to me:

Dear Ms. Kelly,

My name’s Quoc Khanh. I will be a police official to capture the robbers when I grow up. I’m in the second grade in a primary school. I like playing with my close friends Truong, Quang, and I like dog. I often help Mom do some house chores, sweep the floor. I’m very happy because I can keep going to school. My teacher said that if I wanted to be a police, I should study hard. And I try my best to study. I hope I could grow up quickly to be a police to capture the robbers. Thank you very much for helping me, a will-be police official. My family is very thankful for your kind.

Wish you and your family a Happy New Year.
I’m looking forward to seeing your picture. I’ll try my best to study.

Love you,
Quoc Khanh,

Love you too, Quoc Khanh. And I just know you are going to be one the best "Robber Catcher"s on the police force.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Shout Out to Dawn, a fellow Yooper

Dawn- thanks for your comments! Since I didn't have an email to reply to you, I figure the next best thing is to toss up a post just for you. don't you feel special? I grew up in Ishpeming also (for those of you non-yoopers who read this, stating that is the equivalent of saying "We probably know each other, or at least know someone who knows both of us"- it is a small small town). We currently live at Sawyer, but hope to move to Marquette or Negaunee in the future (after the adoption, and when we find a home we like). R works in Marquette, so he doesn't want to live "way out" in Ishpeming. lol.

Shoot me an email if you want:

Monday, January 15, 2007

Wait Times and Snow Storms

We received an email update from our agency today. According to the email, there are:
39 families matched with children waiting to travel
127 families with CIS approval waiting to receive their referral
164 application families in the home study process

We have finished our homestudy, but are waiting for CIS approval, so that puts us in the latter category.

Math depresses me, therefore I refuse to do it. Feel free to crunch the numbers and figure out how close (or how far) R and I are from a referral.

In other news, we have had a massive snow storm here- amazing, given that we have had virtually no snow this year up until this point. I was rather enjoying the big, fluffly snowflakes that were falling, until someone slid around the corner and took out our mailbox! That put a damper on my snow appreciation day.

Ben is on round two of antibiotics, anti-inflamitory med, and twice daily wound cleaning and bandaging. he is NOT healing. he is also not leaving the bandage alone. At his first vet's appointment (the day after we returned from Milwaukee) he had everyone in stitches- he cried and whimpered like he was about to be executed, and, when the bandage was on his foot and he was set down, he ran for the door, barking to leave. Well, he took about five steps, stopped suddenly, looked down at his bandaged foot, and flung it out behind him (drama queen style) and yelped as if to say "OH MY GOD!! MY FOOT!! MY LEG!! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!! I CAN'T WALK!" Trust me, it was hilarious. he most definitely is the drama dog in this household.

Believe it or not, he has repeated this little scene each and every time we change his bandage! Of course, he does walk on it just fine, but feels the need to give a little show each time- perhaps to make us feel bad for what we are doing to him. Then he slips off under a bed somewhere and emerges twenty or thirty minutes later sans bandage - proud as can be, tail wagging, and foot unbandaged.

That little goober. All we seem to do around here is clean and bandage ben's foot. I even tried putting a baby sock on his foot over the bandage in the hopes that it will keep him from messing with it. No such luck. He just chews right through them.

Those rare moments where he is bandaged and NOT messing with his foot, Bogey is pestering him and licking his bandaged foot for him. Ah, brotherly love.

Only now, Bogey has a yeast infection in his mouth. Not sure if it is related to his "tender care" approach to Ben or not. regardless of the "why", Bogey now has to have the area around his mouth cleaned twice a day and ointment put on it.
Both dogs cower and hide whenever they see Robert or I approaching them at the same time. R and I are reduced to "stealth tactics" in order to get both boys medicated and their wounds treated.

Fun times, don't you think?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Adoption Wait Part Deux

While I am surprised that my blog is actually read by anyone outside of my handful of friends (most, if not all, of whom are the writers of the blogs listed in my adoption links section), some questions have arisen from people outside of of our little circle in regards to my previous post "Adoption Wait." I feel they are important questions, and so I will attemp to clarify what was shared in the "Adoption Wait " post for those that have concerns about the information shared.

R and I spent a lot of time researching agencies- and I do mean a lot. As I mentioned in a very early post in this blog, when we first began to seriously consider adoption, Vietnam was not open and we were leaning heavily towards Guatemala. For over a year, we focused on agencies with Guatemala programs and had narrowed down our options to three or four agencies. I joined a few Yahoo groups relating to Guatemala adoption and eagerly read each and every post to learn everything I could about Guatemala's adoption process. As the year progressed, it became apparent to R and I that there were some troubling aspects of Guatemala adoption that we were gravely concerned about - rather than get into all of that here, I ask that you go to the archives and read my initial post and/or email me at : While we were debating wether or not to stay with Guatemala or look for another program, Vietnam opened up. We then spent quite a bit of time researching Vietnam and agencies with Vietnam programs.

After much thought, R and I decided to "go with" Vietnam. We narrowed down our agency choices to two and proceeded to talk with representatives from each agency. In January of 2006, we sent in our intitial application to CHI (Children's Hope International). At that time, the wait for an infant boy was quoted as 2-4 months.

Our application was returned to us about a week later, with the request that we reapply after we had been married one full year. At that time, we debated going with agency #2, as they did not have a marriage length requirement. In the end we decided that we were most comfortable (and confident) with CHI, so we settled in to wait until our one year anniversary: October 2006.

In September of 2006 we had our homestudy conducted, and resubmitted our application to CHI at the end of the month. At that time, the wait for an infant boy had increased to 6-8 months for a referral, with travel following 3 months after that. If we included the time spent on homestudy and the wait for INS approval, the total time line to complete the adoption would be around 12 months.

For a variety of frustrating reasons (none the fault of CHI, who was not our homestudy agency), we did not receive the final version of our homestudy until November 25, 2006. We sent in our I600-A application to the Detroit office, and waited for our fingerprint appointment, which we finally had on December 27, 2006. In the meantime, we began to receive updates on the Vietnam program from CHI. Given that we are not officially on the "wait list" for a referral until after we receive our INS approval, we are among the many people "waiting to wait" for a referral.

As my previous post mentions, the most recent update on the Vietnam program is quoting 12-15 months for a referral. While it has not been confirmed, I think it is a reasonable assumption that the increase in wait times from our initial application in January of 2006 and the most recent update is due in part to the popularity of Vietnam adoption, the popularity of CHI, and the recent changes in China's regulations for PAP's.

While we are most definitely frustrated and dissapointed in the increase in wait times, we are in no way disatisfied with CHI. We chose CHI for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is their ethics. Believe me when I say we took a lot of time to research all the agencies that were viable options for us and, once we had narrowed it down to two agencies, spent even more time researching each agency. I am a member of several yahoo groups pertaining to vietnam adoption and to adoption in general (plug here for the yahoo group AAR-Adoption Agency Research) and heard nothing but good things about CHI. In addition to researching CHI on yahoo groups, we had private email correspondence with former CHI clients, investigated their financial reports, and spoke with the adoption worker for LSS of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan (who I was employed with at the time in a seperate program dealing with at risk and homeless youth) about CHI. This is all in addition to several conversations R had with the director of CHI for our region (chicago office of CHI) in which he asked all the "right questions" suggested by those on APV and other yahoo groups, as well as questions unique to ourselves. All of these factors went into our decision to go with CHI, and we are satisfied with that decision.

I have had contact with PAP's who were with CHI's Vietnam program but switched agencies due to the long wait for a referral. The PAP's who have switched have been clear that the reason for the switch was the wait itself, and not due to any wrongdoing or negative experience with CHI.

The long and short of it is this: we are happy with our agency. We are not happy with the wait times. But then, what PAP likes to wait? At this time, we have no intentions of changing agencies. We do, of course, hope against hope that the wait times will magically decrease! We have asked for approval for two children - twins or a sibling group. Who knows, maybe that will move us up the list some...once we get on the wait list, that is!

I hope that this post has clarified the questions and concerns that some of you have had about my previous post.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Adoption Wait

I was going to post about Ben's visit to the vet and our subsequent "drama" involved with his bandaged foot, but I am feeling pretty down right now and can't find the sense of humor necessary to write about it well.

Why am I a bit down, you ask? Well, let me tell you. I received an email update from our agency that reports the following: " for those families that got on the wait list this year in October 2006 of later, they should anticipate a 12-15 month wait."

We are not even on the wait list yet, as we are still waiting for our INS approval.

12-15 months???? are you kidding me? When we started this process the wait was 2-4 months, by the time we received our official approval from the agency, the wait was 6-8 months, and now the wait is 12-15 months.

I feel discouraged. and mean. I am not having very nice thoughts about China these days. Somehow it makes me feel better to blame China for changing their rules and causing so many PAP's to switch to Vietnam.

Not nice, I know. But damn it, I can't help thinking that those parents who switched mid stream (aka after their INS approval) from China to Vietnam are getting on the waiting list before people like us, who are still waiting for INS approval.

Now, before I get scolded for saying this, I am not claiming this is true. I am saying that this is what my dissapointed, stressed out, impatient mind suspects is happening.

Besides, I am not in the mood to be rational, patient, and calm.

I am annoyed. Royally pissed off, really.

12-15 months. damn.

Monday, January 08, 2007

What a Life!

I am not Jewish, so I hope my Jewish friends will forgive me for borrowing this phrase, but there is no other way to talk about the last week or so without using the expression "Oy Vey!"
From my previous post, you all know the "adventure" that unfolded during our trip to Milwaukee for our fingerpring appointment. Remember at the end of the post I hinted that when we returned home things continued to be chaotic and sleep deprived? Well, here is what happened. We arrived home at eight oclock and we greeted by two very happy, hyper pups. Note that I did not say "happy, hyper, healthy pups." Ben, our 10 year old pomeranian, was limping badly. I don't know what happened, but somehow, in the short period of time between when my mom left our house (she was "grandog sitting") at six p.m. and our arrival at eight p.m., Ben's right rear paw sustained an injury. Upon inspection, I discovered that part of the pad of his paw had been, for lack of a better word, "skinned." It was red, raw, and oozing. Clearly infected. And Ben was miserable. It was obvious that he had been licking at it, which further irritated the injury.

Bogey, our Scottish Terrier, was clearly distraught over his "brother's" injury. When Ben was not licking at his paw, Bogey was trying to do it for him! Ben was not that "receptive" to Bogey's attention. Hence, my entire night (and I do mean my entire night) went as follows:
"Ben, stop licking" [Ben stops licking and looks at me like I was the most stupid and mean person in the whole world to tell him he has to stop licking his foot -"it hurts, you dummy! I have to lick it!"]
"Bogey chill out!" [Bogey is whimpering and whining, tail wagging 90 per, and trying to lick Ben's paw for him, when that was not working, he resorted to licking Ben's eyes, ears, face etc]
"Ben, that's enough!" [Ben does NOT like Bogey in his face or licking any part of his body, so he is growling and barring his teeth at Bogey]
"AROOOO" [Bogey is not "getting" why Ben is growling and is expressing his dismay at not being able to "take care of" his brother]
This "dialogue" continued to repeat itself all night long. And I do mean all night long. Meanwhile, R is snoring away, oblivious to it all.

By 3 a.m. I lost it. I yelled at both dogs, and then I drugged Ben with Benadryl.

Then I cried, thinking "There is no way I can be a mother, I can't even take care of my dogs! We might as well just stop the adoption now- I am going to be a horrible mother, I can see it now, social services showing up at our door because I lose it with my child and yell at him and then drug him with Benadryl to make him sleep."

It was a truly awful night. And the nights following weren't much better. I will write about Ben's (aka "drama dog") visit to the vet a little later, as I have yet another meeting to attend (as I said earlier, Oy Vey!)