Monday, October 29, 2007

Good News!!!!

So we got some good news today, we have a court date! We are scheduled to go through court on November 19!!! What does this mean you ask? Well, if you had scrolled down to stage VII you would realize we're on step D. :) Our documents (the ones we gathered for a year, and the information we have on the girls), have been submitted to the courts who have then assigned us a court date. We have an Ethiopian lawyer who represents us at this time so that we don't have to travel twice. After a favorable ruling in court, our daughters will officially, legally, be ours. That is, they will be Thomasesesseses. (Not to be confused with the Kirbies or the Ferriseseseses.) Also at court, we will get assigned an Embassy date. This is what we base our travel around. We have to go to the Embassy for Visas and interviews, and things like that. Dove has a set Embassy date on Thursdays. So we know that we will be there on a Thursday in December. Man, another step. As Sam Cooke says wonderfully and perfectly, 'It's been a long, a long time coming. But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will."

Friends are on their way in for a few days. It seems like everytime we have travelers, we have good news.

Friday, October 26, 2007

in honor of halloween.

(as if it needed an explanation, i am a piece of asparagus, and ben is a chicken who has been slaughtered because of the avian flu.)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

one very crowded nursery

still need to get the changing pad, but there's the table/dresser. three cheers for craig's list!

that's our bedroom in the back. you can see the stainglass window on the left.

the two cribs.

it's crowded, but not as crowded as it seems in the pictures. there is room on the floor to crawl around. it's crazy to see it mostly set up - it's even crazier to open the closet door to see all the stuff crammed in, i don't recommend it.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

so a guy walks into work

I should tell you here that ben works with a lot of mathematicians and physicists. okay, stage set. so yesterday ben was at work and it happened to be two people's birthday. his boss says,

d: wow! it's so funny! i mean what is the probability that 2 people out of 14 would have the same birthday?!?!? hahaha
the entire office: 22%!

the funny thing is they didn't even realize how hilarious it was. they were just answering a probability. i've always secretly scoffed at the women who wear those 'i heart nerds' t-shirts, but now i kinda want one.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

favorite beach photos

i never posted my favorite pictures from the beach this year...
this was not re-touched

neither was this

this was the most fun day ever. we just got destroyed by the waves over and over

typical day

pop pop and gaga

matt and ivy

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

pancakes are delicious...

hello, hello everyone! it's been an amazing few days since we got the best phone call of our lives. after an amazing camping trip in the catskills (our last vacation sans kids...) we woke up monday morning glad of having slept in a bed and through the roof because our agency called with more information about our daughters.

Hilina is from Gondar. Gondar is 50 kilometres north of Lake Tana, 500 kilometres north of Addis Ababa and nestled in the foothills of the Simien mountains at 2,200 metres above sea level. Gondor was the capital of Ethiopia from the rise of Fasilades to the fall of Tewodros (1855-68) which is reflected in the many castles and palaces in the city. It is sometimes called the Camelot of Ethiopia because of all the many castles. This is Gondar, Ethiopia.
Hilina, whose name means consciousness was found on the steps of the Lideta Church around 6pm on July 1. Across the world Ben and I were on the Q train with John Simpson, coming back from Coney Island. She is healthy and beautiful and looks very graceful and I cannot wait to hold her.

Toke (pronounced Toe-Key) is from Arba Minch. Arba Minch received its name for the abundant local springs which produce a groundwater forest (minch is Amharic for 'spring'). Located at the base of the western side of the Great Rift Valley, Arba Minch consists of the uptown administrative centre of Shecha and 4 km away the downtown commercial and residential areas of Sikela, which are connected by a paved road. On the eastern side of Sikela is the gate to Nechisar National Park, which covers the isthimus between Lake Abaya to the north and Lake Chamo to the south. The area is also known for wildlife, including crocodiles and hippopotamuses. Arba Minch is known for fruit, including mango, banana, orange, apple, guava and pineapple. This area was devastated by the horrific floods which occured in Ethiopia last year that you all heard us refer to.
This is the town of Arba Minch, the main mosque is on the right.

Here is a crocodile farm:
Tokey is hilarious - you can tell from her picture that she is going to be a pistol. She has TONS of hair, and long long fingers, I just want to eat her up! There are some discrepancies in her story (her birthday, etc) so I will wait to tell you until I know the truth or our best guess at the truth. But rest assured she is happy and healthy and was probably born on the 23 of July. She and Hilina were admitted to the orphanage in Addis within 6 days of each other.

So that's our news for now. I am sorry I can't post their pictures yet, but I just want to get through court and they are officially ours before we put them up. It looks like we'll have a better idea of our court date in the next few weeks, we'll be sure to keep you all posted (pun intended) if you keep praying that we get through this quickly. I've heard other mothers talk about how difficult it is once you have pictures/names to be away from them. I keep checking the world clock in Addis trying to guess what they might be doing... I truly did not know it was possible to fall in love with photographs.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

life changes fast. life changes in an instant.

well, i must say that we are the parents of two little pancakes! all we know right now is that we have two little girls. our oldest was born on June 3o, 2007. her name is Hilina - as far as I can tell it is a derrivative of Helen, and means light. she will be 14 weeks on Saturday. our youngest was born on July 23, 2007. her name is Toke Salato - not sure on this meaning yet, might mean two weeks, she will be 11 weeks on monday. they are about 3.5 weeks apart.

how it happened:

we had just finished dinner, tortellini with tomato basil. were having a nice conversation with our friend mike about places we've been and liked. i was reserving a car for our camping trip and ben's phone rings...
we have some friends in town from oregon (which is also where our adoption agency is located) and so when he looked at his phone and said where is 503?, mike said oregon, and we assumed it was one of the guys calling to meet up. when he said, 'yes this is ben...' and walked into the bedroom i knew it was Dove. i looked at mike, i looked at ben's face. i started screaming and ran into the bedroom and ripped the phone out of ben's hand. i must have sounded like a crazy person because i kept screaming are you kidding me? are you kidding me? oh my gosh, this isn't happening, really, tami? really? i guess because she had said to ben and not me that she knew who our daughters were it wasn't registering. once i finally calmed down and took a few deep breaths, she told me their names and birthdays.
this is how ben said his initial few seconds before i stole the phone went: she said "hi ben, sorry to call you so late. how are you? (i was like shut your mouth, what? what?). i said i was fine. well, i'm just calling to let you know that you should be getting your referral within the week. i wanted to give you a heads up. then this crazy woman hit me over the head and grabbed the phone from my ear as if her life depended on it. (thanks, ben)
so basically what this means is that we have been matched with two real girls and that in the next week or so we'll get our official referral from MOWA with more information - like where they were born, how much they weigh, where they are now, medical information, family information, etc. until then we can just relax and know that the waiting is (almost) over.

other things of consequence I will want to remember:

we recieved our referral on Oct. 3, 2007. Ben and I met on Oct. 3, 2003 at Grace and Jackson's rehersal dinner. We had met a few times before but this is when we had our first conversation and ben told me he 'thought about me all the time even though he didn't know me.." p.s. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY GRACE AND JACK!!!

we waited a few days shy of 6 months for our referral. given that we started this in april of 2006 - it took 18 months from start to referral which is the same length of 2 gestational periods. HAHAHA.

on tuesday night ben and i met at St Patrick's cathedral on 50th. we went in and sat down and prayed for the girls. and for their mothers. and all of their health. and for patience. and that we would get our referral soon. and then after being there long enough for our knees to start hurting, we got up and each lit a candle.

ok. i am sure i will have much more to write later but i just wanted to get this all up there and to say thanks for all the people who have been praying for us, and waiting with us. thank you thank you thank you all. life is better than good.

As cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a far country.
Proverbs 26:25

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

How to Adopt in 9 "Easy-Peasy" Stages

Many people ask us what the adoption process is like. It's a pain. I thought rather than try and explain to everyone what it all entails (my mouth was getting dry...) I would write it all out for everyone to see. It could be useful if you were planning on adopting to print it out as a checklist? Anywhoodle. Many refferals are coming in these last few weeks, hopefully we will be soon. Only a few people can still be ahead of us I imagine. Once we get our referral you can scroll down to stage VI to see what happens next because I'll be too busy doing the stuff I should have been doing all summer... Keep your fingers crossed and your hair braided, too.

** Status as of 04/09/07: Stages I - V complete!! **

Stage I: Sign Up with Adoption Agency and Home Study Agency

A. Research the 7 U.S. adoption agencies authorized by Ethiopian gov’t
B. Select Dove Adoptions International, based in Oregon
C. Apply to Dove, pay application fee
D. Received acceptance package and contract from Dove, submit contract and first installment of adoption fee
E. Research licensed adoption agencies to do Home Study (must be a licensed agency in our home state - NY)
F. Select Children’s Hope Int’l (NY)
G. Submit application to Children’s Hope Int’l, pay application and initial Home Study fees
H. Ask four friends to write letters of recommendation (thanks guys!)

Stage II: Home Study
A. Receive intro package and instructions from CHI
B. Get assigned to licensed Social Worker who will write the Home Study; call Social Worker to introduce myself. (YAY Sara, she was GREAT!)
C. Make appointment to get fingerprinted for NY Department of Justice clearance
D. Make appointment with doctor for medical
E. Get full medical exam, TB test, get doctor’s signature notarized on four copies of health letter (for Ethiopian gov’t – to be part of my Dossier) and four copies of medical form (required for Home Study)
F. First meeting and interview with Social Worker at our home
G. Gather and submit to CHI (home study agency) the following documentation:
Application Form for International Adoption Home Study
Personal History Form
Fee Agreement International Adoption Home Study
Recent photos of house, us, etc.
Release of Information forms (notarized)
Criminal Record Clearance statement from City of New York, NY (notarized)
Agreement for Int'l Home Study Services
Certification of Pre-Adoption Preparation
Employment Verification (letter from employers) (notarized)
Medical Report (on form provided by Dove Adopt Int’l) (notarized)
TB Test results
Copy of 2006 and 2005 tax returns
Copy of recent bank statements
Other financial documentation (net worth statement)
Copy of Birth certificates (state seal, etc)
Copy of Marriage License (state seal, etc)
H. Have fingerprints taken for DOJ clearance.
I. Confirm with CHI that DOJ clearance was received.
J. Complete the following courses for fulfill Adoption Education requirement:
Adoptive Parent Prep Seminar
“Let's Talk About Adoption"
“With Eyes Wide Open" (focus on int’l adoptions)
“Conspicuous Families" (focus on transracial adoptions)
K. Second and third meetings and interviews with Social Worker (at our home).
L. Review draft Home Study provided by Social Worker, make comments/corrections, send back to Social Worker.
M. Social worker finalizes Home Study, sends to CHI.
N. CHI informs us that Home study is officially complete!!
O. Get five copies of Home Study (one for USCIS, four for dossier)
P. Pay remainder of fees to CHI, including post-placement fees

Stage III: Get Permission from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (CIS) to Adopt a Foreign Orphan
A. Fill out USCIS Form I-600A (Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition)
B. Submit the following to USCIS in New York:
Completed I-600A
Completed Form DOJ-361 (Certification of Identity) (notarized)
Check for I-600A Application fee
Check for “Bioustric fee” (for fingerprints)
Copy of my passport (for proof of Citizenship)
Health insurance verification (proving that the children will be covered by my health insurance as soon as they get here)
Completed Home Study
C. Receive letter from USCIS with appointment to have our fingerprints taken.
D. Have fingerprints taken for FBI for clearance.
E. Receive form I-171H from USCIS (Notice of Favorable Determination Concerning Application for Advance Processing of Petition of Orphan Petition) - this means we’re approved to adopt!

Stage IV: Dossier Preparation
A. Prepare our Dossier. The dossier must include three copies of each of the following, with the appropriate authentication. Also, in some cases Ben and I had to have separate letters (ex: medical clearance, criminal clearance. And each document had to be notarized (THANKS VICTOR!)
1. Letter to Ethiopian Government (introducing myself, explaining why we want to adopt from Ethiopia, and committing to providing my child with awareness or his/her cultural heritage) (notarized)
2. Letter to the Board of Directors of Toukoul Orphanage in Addis Ababa
3. Family Registration Form (notarized)
4. Financial Information (net worth statement) (notarized)
6. Criminal Clearance Letter from City of New York (notarized)
7. Three Letters of Reference (different from the forms submitted for my Home Study) (notarized)
8. Employer Letters (notarized)
9. Medical Letter (with TB test results) (notarized)
10. Birth Certificate (state-certified)
11. Completed Home Study (notarized)
12. Copy of CHI Agency License (with "true copy" statement) (notarized)
13. “Obligation of Home Study Agency” form signed by CHI (notarized)
14. Copy of our lease (with "true copy" statement) (notarized)
15. Power of Attorney – for attorney to represent us in court in Addis Ababa (notarized and apostilled by the State of New York.)
16. Form I-171-H (this form is sent to us from the USCIS) (with "true copy" statement, notarized and apostilled by the State of New York.)
17. Passport Photos
18. Family Pictures
B. Submit our Dossier, along with Dossier fee, to Dove Adoption. It ended up the day we were supposed to send everything in Ben flew out to Argentina and we had a blizzard (IN MARCH). I was walking around with a horrible cold trying to get the last documents certified and apostilled, and off to Kinkos/FedEX in the sleet/snow… (thanks for celebrating with me, Isaac!)

Stage V: Dossier Processing and Submission
A. Dove sends Dossier to Ethiopian embassy in Washington DC to be authenticated and translated into Amharic (a few weeks)
B. Ethiopian embassy sends Dossier back to Dove
C. Dove sends Dossier to Ethiopian Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MOWA)
D. MOWA approves Dossier
E. Dossier submitted to the Board of Directors of Toukoul Orphanage in Addis Ababa

Stage VI: Children Are "Referred" To Us {Total wait between Stage V and Stage VI: APPROX. 4 - 6 MONTHS,}
A. The board of the Toukoul Orphanage meets (behind closed doors) to identify children for us, based on the information in our dossier
B. Children’s “Referral” papers (including photos and medical information) are sent to Dove
C. Dove contacts us with referral information (Yay!!)
D. Consult with Pediatrician experienced in international illnesses who might be more familiar than just your average ped.
E. Officially accept the referral (or reject, if there is some good reason, and wait for another referral – this is extraordinarily rare)
F. Get vaccinations incl.: Typhoid, Hep A and B inoculations

Stage VII: Adoption Is Formalized In Ethiopia (I’d like to point out here that we adopt our children before we ever meet them…) {Total duration of Stage VII - approx. 4 - 6 weeks}
A. Attorney in Addis Ababa prepares documents for court on our behalf
B. Paperwork filed in court
C. Court date assigned
D. Court date (Attorney in Addis Ababa appears on our behalf.)
E. Court issues adoption decree – (adoption is now final under Ethiopian law)
F. MOWA issues permission for us to travel to Ethiopia
G. Embassy appointment date is set (Once I know this date, I can plan our travel to Ethiopia!)
H. Adoption decree translated into English
I. New birth certificate is issued for pancakes (with the Ethiopian first name retained, Ben’s first name as his/her middle name, and our last name as their last name – this is standard practice and will change their name from Benjamin Thomas )

Stage VIII: I Go To Ethiopia To Get My Child!! {Total duration of Stage VIII - approx. 2 weeks}
A. Fly to Addis Ababa
B. Stay in guesthouse at Toukoul in Addis
C. Get children!
D. Apply for Ethiopian passport for children
E. Get medical and 2nd HIV test (required by US)
F. Go to US Embassy; apply for Visas for children
G. Fly home! (ACK, 23 hours, and then collapse)

Stage IX: Home Sweet Home
A. At airport – provide children's passport, Visa, and sealed documentation (given to us by U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa) to USCIS agent
B. Get child’s passport stamped – they are now legal residents!!
C. File for re-adoption in New York so they can become U.S. citizens
D. Apply for SSN for children
E. Engage CHI to create “post-placement” reports
F. File post-placement reports with Ethiopian government – four (4) total