Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Delivered

Holt got our dossier today and it will hopefully be on its way to Thailand by the end of the week!

YAY!

-Kyle

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Fit

Robin and I are starting to think about all the things that will change when we have a little one in the house, and we're starting to think of the cars we have in the driveway. I have an aging Ford Ranger that isn't really useful for transporting kids.

So, after some searching and discussions, I think we've settled on getting the Honda Fit.

Unfortunately, there aren't many around, so we still need to test drive one to make sure it is what we think.

Honestly, I thought we'd go with a larger car, but we've decided to try following the philosophy we use with our house: "If you have less space, you'll need less space". The "Fit" has more space than Robin's Honda Civic, so that's a bonus (the Civic is getting on in age as well). And, of course, it gets much better fuel economy than any larger car (as dictated by the laws of physics).

We're not in any hurry to buy a car. There's really nothing wrong with the ones we're driving. We just want to have some idea of what we want before the day arrives that we have a disabled vehicle and need to make a quick decision.

-Kyle

More food

We took another page out of our Thai cookbook last night and made Mixed Vegetables in Peanut Sauce. It was very tasty and had lots of healthy vegetables.

There's an Asian grocery store nearby, so we might stop by there today so we can find some of the more exotic ingredients we can't find in our normal grocery store. We've never been to the store before, so it should be interesting.

-Kyle

Friday, May 25, 2007

Thai Adoption 101

After talking to my friend Lauren last night, I realized that we use a few terms that people outside the adoption world aren't familiar with. The international adoption process is also different for each country (with Thailand, it's even different depending on which agency you use and which country you live in). Here's a rundown of our process and some of the vocab we use. Grab a pillow so you can take a nap if you get sleepy!

To become adoptive parents, we have to be approved and certified as foster parents in the state of Wisconsin. Our local agency (Lutheran Social Services, Madison WI), helped us with this step. We met with our social worker three times (once at our home), filled out questionnaires on our education, marriage, parenting goals, cultural assessment, and family relationships. We each wrote 14 page autobiographies and collected lots of paperwork including 4 references, background checks in our county of residence, financial statements, birth and marriage certificates, detailed forms filled out by our doctor, and proof of insurance. Our social worker used all of this information to write a nine page (single spaced!) summary of our entire lives and our desire/ability to add an adoptive child to our family. This document is what is called the "Home study". Our social worker was super quick and wonderful, plus, she's an adoptive mom herself, so she's a great resource.

While we were waiting for our home study to be written, we started putting together our
"Dossier", which is the collection of documents that the Child Adoption Board of Thailand needs to look over before they'll allow us to adopt. These documents included an application form, the home study, birth and marriage certificates, financial statements, medical letters from our doctor, personal references, photos, employer letters, etc.

Once everything was gathered together, Kyle had to make a bazillion photocopied sets for various agencies and people, then get the original set certified by our state, then authenticated by the U.S. State Department and the Royal Thai Embassy.

The completed dossier was then sent to our other agency - our "placing" agency - Holt International in Eugene, Oregon. They look over our documents and send them on to Thailand. There are 2 avenues for international adoption in Thailand - the Thai government can match children directly, or one of several approved NGOs (nongovernmental organization) may make a match with oversight by the Thai government. We're working with Holt as an NGO. We chose their program because we liked that Holt tries first to keep kids with their birth families, then to adopt within their home country before looking to international adoption, and also that most of their kids live in foster homes while they wait for their "forever families".

Our agency matches a small group of children with families 4 times a year. Their next group will be in June, then in September. We've been told that based on the number of families who submitted dossiers before us, we may possibly be matched to a child in December of this year. This is call the "Referral", and will be the name, picture, and information about a child. We'll discuss whatever information is available with a physician who specializes in international adoptions, and then decide whether or not to accept the referral. We don't know if we'll be referred a boy or a girl. The child will be between 0 and 2 years old at the time of referral. We've been told that typically there are more boys waiting for homes than girls, but either is a possibility, and I'm really excited either way!

After we accept a referral we can send our critter a package with toys and a photo album so they can get to know what we look like. That's when the really difficult waiting begins. The Child Adoption Board must sign off on the placement and then let us know we can travel to Bangkok to meet with the Board and take custody of our child. We've heard this takes 8 - 10 months, but that wait times are increasing due to more families adopting from Thailand in the wake of changing regulations in Chinese adoptions.


When we finally get home (it feels strange to type that - feels like I'm counting my chickens...) we have 3 post-placement visits with our local social worker and she types reports to send to Thailand. After the 6 month report, Thailand will (hopefully!) give us the OK to finalize the adoption, which we'll do by going to the Thai Embassy in Chicago.

Then we'll have a big party and you're all invited. Pencil it in on your calendars for June of 2009?!?

If that wasn't enough to bore you, there's more detailed info on Thailand adoptions on this web site.

- Robin

In the mail

I found the dossier had returned when I got home from work today. It's been in Washington D.C. the last week getting certification from the U.S. and Thai government. Luckily, I anticipated the dossier's arrival and had time to take the dossier directly back to the Fed Ex office to ship it to Holt. It's now on its way!

It feels good to have this portion of the paperwork behind us. Don't get me wrong...there will be more, but reaching this milestone feels good.

I also mailed out our I-600A (Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition) to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services this week.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with all the extra space on our dining room table. I'm sure it will fill up again before too long.

-Kyle

Thursday, May 24, 2007

News story

Here's an interesting story from the Milwaukee, Wisconsin newspaper regarding adoption.

It's always nice to see positive stories about adoption in the media.

-Kyle

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Nepal

Robin has been keeping up-to-date on international adoption in a number of other countries. The situation in Nepal appears to be a difficult one right now.

Our hearts go out to the families in process right now. We hope the situation improves quickly.

-Kyle

Monday, May 21, 2007

Stubborn shadow

Robin and I got some new passport photos taken Saturday. I need to renew my passport and both of us needed passport photos for the dossier. We went to a local business that claims to take these pictures.

When we got them home, we realized that there was a shadow cast by my head. The State Department doesn't want any shadows in passport photos.

So today I went back there to get the pictures retaken. Fifteen snapshots later, they still could not get rid of my shadow. They've never had this problem with anyone else, so perhaps there is something wrong with my head.

Their eventual solution was to give me my money back. So tomorrow, it's off to Walgreen's!

(The picture is not meant as any reflection on the people I dealt with today).

-Kyle

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Unfortunate stories

Today it's raining so I decided to dive into starting to organize the nursery. I pulled out the picture books I've saved over the years. Some I've had since childhood, and others I've acquired in the years since (I love beautifully illustrated story books!). Of course, I couldn't just pull them out and plop them on the shelf - I sat and read through a few that I didn't remember for fun.

I was absolutely loving the beginning of the Enchanter's Daughter, and the illustrations are truly gorgeous. By the end, however, I was horrified. A girl's search for her identity and her mother led her to discover that she'd been stolen by a rich enchanter after her poverty-stricken mother refused to sell her! What an unfortunate end to a story that could have been poignant and uplifting (I was thinking the girl should have discovered that her mother, unable to parent due to circumstance, had chosen an adoptive home for her, loved her always, and they could have developed a special relationship). The most confusing thing about this story is that it's dedicated to "Gemma Thi-Phi-Yen who flew halfway across the world to be my daughter.". . .so the author was the mother of a little girl adopted internationally!

Next, I pulled out The Rainbabies, which was recommended by a reader in this month's edition of Adoptive Families magazine. Ordinarily, I like AF quite a bit, but I don't think the staff at AF read this book before they published the readers praise for it. An older couple longs for a child and finds 12 tiny "rainbabies" that fell from the sky to their lawn one night. The couple cares for them and rescues them from several awful situations including drowning, fire, and wild animals. A stranger tries to buy the rainbabies, but the couple refuses. The stranger magically turns into "Mother Moonshower" (looking like a faerie princess) and congratulates the couple on protecting her rainbabies from harm and thanks then for cherishing them. She takes the rainbabies back, but leaves a human child in their place. Their new daughter is loved and the ending is happy. While it's a nice little fairy tale, adopted children are not placed by magical faeries, and I think this book would be confusing to a young adoptee.

There are so many good books on adoption for kids - books that don't deny the existence of birth parents or make adoptive parents out to be evil adults who steal them away from their "real" families... I just don't happen to own any. I don't think I'm being too sensitive? I'm going to get rid of these and restock my library.

-Robin

Thursday, May 17, 2007

From our adoption class today...

Today, Kyle and I attended day one of our two-day adoption class in Madison. I'll post more of my impressions about it later, but one of the highlights for me was something our social worker read at the end of today's session. It made me smile, and it also made me think of my new Australian and New Zealand friends in blog-land. They'll have to change the destination, but I think they'll like it too. =)

"Deciding to have a baby is like planning a trip to Australia. You've heard it's a wonderful place. You've read many guidebooks and feel certain you're ready to go. Everyone you know has traveled there by plane. They say it can be a turbulent flight with occasional rough landings, but you can look forward to being pampered on the trip.

So you go to the airport and ask the ticket agent for a ticket to Australia. All around you, excited people are boarding planes for Australia. It seems there is no seat for you: You'll have to wait for the next flight. Impatient, but anticipating a wonderful trip, you wait - and wait - and wait.

Flights to Australia continue to come and go. People say silly things like, "Relax, you'll get on a flight soon." Other people actually get on a plane and then cancel their trip, to which you cry, "It's not fair!"

After a long time the ticket agent tells you, "I'm sorry, we're not going to be able to get you on a plane to Australia. Perhaps you should think about going by boat."

"By boat!" you say, "going by boat will take a very long time and it costs a great deal of money, I really had my heart set on going by plane." So you go home and think about not going to Australia at all. You wonder if Australia will be as beautiful if you approach it by sea rather than air. But you have long dreamed of this wonderful place, and finally you decide to travel by boat.

It's a long trip, many months over many rough seas. No one pampers you. You wonder if you will ever see Australia. Meanwhile, your friends have flown back and forth to Australia two or three more times, marveling about each trip.

Then one glorious day, the boat docks in Australia. It is more exquisite than you ever imagined, and the beauty is magnified by your long days at sea. You have made many fiends during your voyage, and you find yourself comparing stories with others who also traveled by sea rather than air.

People continue to fly to Australia as often as they like, but you are able to travel only once, perhaps twice. Some say things like, "Oh, be glad you didn't fly. My flight was horrible: traveling by sea is so easy."

You will always wonder what it would have been like to fly to Australia. Still, you know God blessed you with a special appreciation of Australia, and the beauty of Australia is not in the way you got there, but in the place itself."

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Thai food

I made a recipe from our new Thai cookbook tonight, and it was a hit! It was so tasty! It even had a little spice. It was a version of beef in coconut sauce.

I also got ingredients for another ground pork recipe.
Perhaps we can get that one to be even more spicy!

We hope to do a lot more Thai cooking in the future!

-Kyle

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Off to D.C.

The dossier process isn't complete, but it's getting closer. Today we completed a number of steps that get our dossier on its way to Washington D.C.

Robin and I each took some time off work to pick up our home study, notarize a couple parts of it, run some photo copies, and get the dossier authenticated by the Wisconsin Secretary of State.

I was nervous going into the day because of the precision required with this paperwork, and the fact that Robin wasn't going to be with me. I was confident I was going to screw something up. To this point, I don't think I did.

Our social worker's office was nice enough to help us get photocopies of some of the documents. Once Robin and I went though all the new papers we got at the social workers' office, I went straight to the Wisconsin State Department office. I submitted our paperwork for certification, and immediately asked if I should stay in Madison for the day to pick it up, or if I should plan on coming back the next day. They hesitated and said they weren't sure (which is crap...they knew), but for a mere $25, they would complete it on the spot. I was not happy about them extorting $25 out of me, but I was not ready to spend the time and money to return to Madison again this week. It may have cost more, but this way, the dossier was in the mail on its way to Washington D.C. by 11:30 this morning.

So, now it's in the hands of the U.S State Department and the Thai Embassy in D.C. If all goes well, we should get the dossier back from them pretty quickly. Then the real waiting begins.

I had more friends and co-workers asking me about the adoption process today. I'm so glad people are curious and supportive. I feel quite lucky.

-Kyle

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Another photo

We took an opportunity this weekend to take another photo for our dossier. There were plenty of nice photo ops during our hike along the Geneva Lake trail this weekend. We love this trail because you can enjoy the lake the whole time, and get a look at some of the large and beautiful homes along the lake.

We walked a 7 mile stretch on the north shore from Williams Bay to Lake Geneva.

-Kyle

Friday, May 11, 2007

Sharing Session


This week, Kyle and I were required to attend what our social worker called a "sharing session". We were told we'd get to meet families who had recently returned home with their children and hear about their experiences. (We're also required to attend when we come home from Thailand.)

We didn't really know what to expect but looked forward to hearing firsthand from families who have recently become parents through adoption. One of my concerns is that we're going to be jumping into parenthood at the toddler stage without really knowing what we're doing.

When we arrived at the session, there were no other waiting adoptive parents, and only one family who has recently returned home with a new child. The family was very nice, with 2 older biological sons and a son and daughter from Mongolia. Their kids were great and they were obviously a happy, fun family. The session, however, wasn't really structured as much as we anticipated, and we didn't realize we should have come with more questions. They had good information to share about their experiences with attachment and bonding, and language development, but they were in a very different position than we're going to be in, in that they were already experienced parents before they adopted their first child.

Mother's Day

Kyle's mom gave me a great Thai cookbook as an early Mother's Day present. I don't feel like a mom yet, even though I think of Kyle and I as being "paper pregnant", and there's a very real possibility that our kiddo is already born. As excited as I am, I feel like it's not really real. Not that I won't really be a mom, but that the adoption isn't really happening. It's so strange to have a family via lots of official paperwork. (Although the dossier we submit to the Thai government has about 19 official documents, including 10 typed pages of our life story, the official Thai application for adoption is only 5 short pages long. It feels strange to fill out only 5 pages to request the honor of welcoming a child from another country into our family!) There are still so many unknowns, especially how long it will be before we'll be able to bring our little one home. In the meantime, however, Kyle and I will certainly enjoy the tasty recipes in our new cookbook as we wait.

- Robin

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Celebrating adoption

The BBC posted a story some time ago about adoption in Thailand.

Read it!

-Kyle

Blitz

Robin and I are planning an adoption paperwork blitz...the only problem is we don't know when it's going to start.

We are waiting on the final touches to be put on the formal home study, which should happen at any time. When it does, we're going to drop what we're doing, and do the following:

1) Drive to Madison to pick-up the home study.
2) Get a few sheets of the dossier notarized.
3) Run photocopies of the notarized pages to go with the rest of the dossier copies.
4) Go to the State Department in Madison for certification.
5) Pray they can turn it around that same day.
6) Fed Ex the dossier straight to D.C. for State Department and Thai Embassy authentication.

With some luck, all of those stages will be done in the same day, saving us a couple days of relying on the mail. It may require the use of a day off work, but I'm ready to pay that price.

The "hurry up" will soon turn into "wait".

-Kyle

Monday, May 7, 2007

Thai culture in Madison

Robin and I were in Madison today on adoption business, but got done in time to enjoy one of our favorite spots in the city. Olbrich Gardens is quite beautiful this time of year.

One of the highlights of the gardens is the Thai Pavilion, built in Thailand and assembled in Madison in 2001. The Thai chapter of the Wisconsin Alumni of Wisconsin donated it. It's quite beautiful and gives the city a strong cultural tie to Thailand. We love going there, and it will be a wonderful place to spend time there after the adoption.

We are pretty much one sheet of paper away from having the dossier complete. We're excited!

-Kyle

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Comparison

Working on a dossier, for me, is like being in school. There is a constant nagging in the back of your brain telling you that there is something you could or should be doing at that very moment to improve the situation, be it homework or preparing envelopes to mail my life story to an anonymous government worker somewhere.

Until the paperwork is out of our hands, that "nagging" is going to be there, night and day.

At this point, I'm rather looking forward to the wait, because the process will be out of my control. But, I've read enough adoption blogs to know that I may want to be careful what I wish for :)

In the famous words of Tom Petty, "the waiting is the hardest part".

-Kyle

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

"Are Those Kids Yours"

Robin has read a lot of adoption-related books, but keeps telling me to read at least one: Are Those Kids Yours, by Cheri Register.

I'll get around to reading it, I promise.

-Kyle