Monday, February 28, 2011

Documents on their way to Toni

This afternoon I drove over to Twin, made copies of the two documents that Toni needs there in AbbyLand to proceed with our adoption process and headed for the post office. A fellow-adoptive Dad is leaving this coming Saturday for that fair country and his wife, Elizabeth, has so graciously volunteered him to hand-deliver our paperwork to Toni. All I have to do is get those papers to them in Minnesota beforehand. As you can imagine this is a huge blessing financially when compared to the cost of shipping overseas.

When I first entered the post office, there was a long line at the desk but no line at all at the Automated Postal Service machine. Oh rats! I'd left my debit card in the car. I ran back outside, grabbed the card and hurried back in (I was trying to get home in time to pick up Scheri from school) By then the APS machine was in use. When it was my turn, I nabbed the appropriate flat rate envelope, plopped my stuff on the scale to be weighed, punched in the zip code and then found out that since I wasn't mailing to a PO address the recipients would have to pick the pkg up at the post office. (Duh! What was I thinking!) And I would have to attach some kind of notice to the envelope informing them of that fact. Well, I couldn't find the form at the self-help desk, was not at all interested in participating in the long line, and besides, I'm sure Elizabeth and her husband do not need another task added to their "to do" list the day before flying internationally.

So I headed back to the car, zipped to the nearby Business Center and opted for Fed-Ex. They could get my papers to the necessary destination for $6 cheaper and one day faster. Can't beat that!!

Is it possible that I have completed the last piece of adoption paperwork?? Sounds too good to be true. I did have to call the school and have them tell Scheri to just walk home.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Our 17th Anniversary

Saturday, February 26 we celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary. Friday was such a slick, snowy, cold day and my husband surprised me by walking in the door with this huge bouquet of "I Love You" balloons and a large pink gift bag. Inside were things he knows I'd like: strawberry lounge-type pajamas, a book by Mary Beth Chapman called Choosing to See, a 2 liter bottle of Diet Pepsi, a big box of SweetTarts and a beautiful card. I thought it was very, very romantic. Then on Saturday my Mom brought over a carrot cake--my favorite kind--decorated with red and yellow roses (two main flowers in our wedding) Kevin asked if I wanted to stay overnight at a motel but I reminded him we have quite recently spent over a week in Europe. Can't beat that!

I-800 is on it's way to USCIS

I finally finished filling out the very important I-800 Form on Friday night the 25th with LOTS of help from our stateside helper, Carla. Good grief, I had to ask for help on almost every question. I don't want our adoption process to be delayed by some silly mistake of mine and believe me, I did NOT find the government's printed instructions to be very helpful at all.
I wanted so badly to get it in the mail by the end of the week. So Saturday afternoon I drove over to Twin Falls knowing that mail is picked up from that post office at 5:30 pm. The business where I usually make copies had closed about 10 minutes before my arrival at their curb so I had to drive all the way across town to Office Max. There I made copies of the beast plus copies of the two documents Carla had sent from About A Child. Of course, the first copies of the I-800 came out white because I'd fed the papers into the copy machine upside down! I got out to the car and started stressing because I could not remember whether I was supposed to mail the copies or the originals with the USCIS documents. Yipes! I didn't have enough time to drive home and email someone. I did have the 800 number for USCIS which I dialed and listened very faithfully to the long automated menu but of course that office was closed for the weekend. Ditto with the About A Child office. So I'm leafing through my little address book trying to think who in the world I could call. Not Toni--it was middle of the night for her. Finally I just called Kevin and asked if I happened to have Shelley's email in my contact list. She's a friend from Reece's Rainbow and also assists people with adoptions from AbbyLand. Sure enough, he found her name and shot her an email and praise God! she must have been perched at her computer because within just a few minutes I had the official answer--make copies but send the originals both of Carla's and Toni's documents. YES! By then I was sitting in front of the post office and had already filled out the envelope and enclosed the originals -- figuring that was my best bet. Anyway, I very happily (and nervously) put that lovely piece of mail in the bin about 5:15 pm. Hey! time to spare. Is it possible that this was our last piece of adoption paperwork?????

Also on Saturday, I was quite pleasantly shocked to receive the apostilled documents back from the Secretary of State in Boise! Wow, I just mailed them on Wednesday evening.

Two Little Boys and Surgery

On Thursday, Feb 24, Steven and Caleb were scheduled for surgery: tonsils and adenoids for Stephen along with replacement of ear tubes; tonsils and adenoids for Caleb. Here they are in their jammies about 6:15 am in the hospital registration area. They were quite happy about picking up grandma and going to see the doctor.

Here they are in their hospital PJs and name bands. I was so pleased with how kind all the staff were to our boys and so happy they could both wait on the same stretcher.

Here's my Mom. I am so, so, so glad she offered to go with me. I can't imagine what I was thinking when I thought I could take them by myself.
I couldn't resist shots of their adorable little piggies.

CALEB WANTED GLOVES. He asked and asked and asked and asked until some soul finally gave him some--and a pair for Steven as well.

Here's Caleb alone in the bed after Steven had already been taken to surgery. He worked on his coloring book for a good 4-5 minutes or so.

Caleb and Grandma
Caleb wearing his "funny hat"
Here are both boys in recovery--not nearly so smiley and chipper, of course. It broke my heart to hear them cry and cry. I felt like such a mean, awful mother. Steven was crying loudly but was able to rest somewhat after a dose of pain medicine. Caleb was especially pitiful because he almost never cries and even here he was trying very hard not to make a sound--literally trying to hold the sobs back with a towel. He was also sounding pretty croupy so received a couple breathing treatments and humidified blow-by oxygen to loosen up his airway. Both ended up being put on another round of Amoxicillin--Steven because of the gunk in his ears and Caleb because of the gunk in his airway.
Here are the boys being wheeled out of Same Day Surgery in a wagon.

On Friday, a sweet lady from our church named Pat brought each of the boys a tiger; a play phone that doubled as a stash of candy; M & M's; and a Pez dispenser.
Steven almost always tries to pose with his chin way up in the air. I called him on it, he laughed and put his chinny-chin-chin down where it belonged.

While the boys were sporting cowboy hats (as a reward for drinking liquids), Mr. James had to get in on the fun. (School was definitely a struggle for him on Friday--too much going on all around him.)


*On Wednesday, I finished Federal and State taxes and got them mailed off (complete with copies of adoption decrees for Caleb and Steven for adoption credit purposes)
*Signed Loan Papers
*Got two documents for Toni notarized while Kevin and I were at the bank together and I sent to Idaho Secretary of State for apostilles

Coming Home--Feb19

This is the fancy-schmancy Mercedes we were seated next to while drinking our water
Our dry breakfasts were in plastic bags
Here's our gate for a flight to Munich

Kevin got to eat both of our chocolate desserts
Are those sleepy eyes I see?
We tried these comfy chairs in the Munich Airport
The very sweet "Welcome Home" display awaiting us on our dining room table.

Oh, I am soooo annoyed--I spent I don't know how long last night writing up this entry and the auto save wasn't working. Good grief!!

6:10 am at Gate B-5 here in the Capital City

Funny night. I'm not sure what time we laid down. Iwas having the most bizarre dreams. Dreaming that I wasn't sleeping. Dreaming that 3 boys were in our room--can't remember why--like around 11-12, 17, and 19 years old. I gave the younger 2 a kiss, saying "no one should go to bed without a good night kiss." Then some street boys came in. I even dreamed that our dog Roxy was in the room--except in the dream she was a male sheep fuzzy sheepdog--and when the door opened "he," of course, ran off, and was downstairs running through a huge hotel lobby. Later a female dog of the same breed came over to me begging for Roxy to stay with her in AbbyLand!!

Then the alarm on Toni's phone went off. I turned on the light wondering why neither my alarm nor the wake-up call had come. It was only midnight!

So back to sleep. Toni's polite little alarm goes off again. And again, my alarm doesn't and still no wake-up call from the desk. So I was thinking, thank goodness for Toni's alarm--at least IT was working.

It was only after we were both up that I discovered it was only 3 AM! Oh well! Kevin showered and laid back down. I showered and fooled around with my stubborn hair half of forever. We finally threw in the last of the dirty clothes and the toiletries and headed down to the lobby. The taxi driver was already there. We left Toni's phone and charger at the desk, got our "dry breakfasts" in plastic grocery bags, settled the bill and got in the taxi. We were all checked in at the airport by about 5:10.

We decided to go on up the escalator and wait up there. Bad decision. At the base of the stairs we just showed our passports. No problem. We went up the escalator and RIGHT THERE was the security screening checkpoint. Great! So we went over to the wall and sat down to drink our waters (part of the breakfast). Nope. A security dude came over and said we weren't allowed to drink there--we'd have to go back downstairs. Both escalators were going up so we had to take the stairs down. We sat in the empty seats of a nearly-empty cafe beside a Mercedes Benz and tried to down the water. I couldn't do it too fast because I'd already drunk a 7-up and most of a bottle of water in the motel room. No hurry really because our flight wasn't until 7:10

6:35 PM in Chicago

By the way, our dry breakfast consisted of a green apple, a ham/cheese sandwich made with 3 slices of white bread, and chocolate dessert and the offending bottle of water.

Liquids gone we went back through passport control and through security and then we truly began our setting for the day:
2 hours at the Capital Airport
2 hours 15 minutes flight to Munich
4 hours 15 minutes in the airport at Munich
9 1/2 hours from Munich to Chicago
5 hours wait in Chicago (1 1/2 hours spent going through all the security stuff: MANY very long lines of people waiting to have their passports checked; got lugguge finally off the carousel, went through customs, re-checked luggage [a lady there was herding everyone to the right conveyor belt to re-check their bags. She was scanning the code on the bags and rattling off terminals and gate #'s but I didn't realize that quick enough to pay close attention to what she was saying--and our flight wasn't yet showing on the screen because we had such a long wait], got to the right terminal by bus, went through security again)
Flight to Boise 2 1/2 hours
=27 hours PLUS getting up 2 hours before the airport and driving at least 2 hours to get home from Boise
=31 hours of FUN!

Finally got to talk to the kids on the phone there in the Chicago airport. We weren't allowed to get out our phones during the whole passport/customs rigmarole. We could have made a call immediately on coming to the gate--while still in the plane--but I knew that wasn't enough time.

I've had 3 meat/cheese sandwiches today!! one from my dry breakfast, one from the flight to Munich and one on the transatlantic flight. Smile! We'd also had pasta, salad, etc near the beginning of the long flight but my tummy wasn't cooperating at that point. I'd had two precious pink Pepto Bismal chewies Friday night and had to chew 2 more on the flight. But here in Chicago I was able to do the fried rice, veggies and orange chicken at the Food Court. Funny thing! It was SO HOT in the Food Court seating area (no, not just me--SMILE-Kevin was hot, too) that we couldn't eat in there.

Things I didn't need on this trip

Foot/hand warmers (we just didn't do that much walking)
Black underalls
Two of the sweaters
Shampoo (plenty in hotels)
Tea bags

Glad I had on this trip

Pepto Bismal
Hand sanitizer
Tide hand wash packets
Cotton swabs
Puzzle book
Hair gel
Neutrogena hand lotion
Small packs of tissues
Cash book

Wish I had brought with me

pencil sharpener
another light-weight long-sleeve shirt
lap top computer !!
mesh scrubber of wash clothe
swim suit
handle to razor

Saying Good-Bye--Feb 18

This is the room where we've been visiting daily with Abby
Marty, Toni and Kevin
Abby and Mommy
I think Abby must have taken this one
Here was the little medicine cabinet so nicely decked out for imaginative play.
Daddy squishing out Play-Doh

Daddy's Play-doh eyes
Toys seated nicely for their picture

Here is Abby preparing us some fish soup

She has me properly dressed for dinner!
Marianne and Toni

Villi, Marianne, Mr. A, Marty; Toni and Abby in front.
These are the parting gifts Abby gave to us

Here are the gifts she gave Toni
Here we are together

Our last picture of our sweetie--dressed in Marianne's coat out by Marty's car
The sausage and cucumber sandwich I had on the way back to the capital

The Restaurant at Hotel Budapest

My wonderful tomato soup
Kevin's chow (He'd missed having beef all week. Smile.)
My yummy food
Suitcases packed and ready to go
Clothes ready to put on for the flight home

Friday morning, 7:15 am

Packed up. Jeans are almost dry on the radiator. I'm waiting as long as possible to put them on.

Hard. Sad. Heart-breaking to know this will be the last time we'll see Abby for quite awhile--probably June. I'm dreading this visit.

Happy. Excited. Glad that today we are heading back to the capital and flying out early in the morning to see the rest of our kids. I miss them. Most of the time when I check my watch and calculate the time difference they are still sleeping. Even by bedtime they are still in school.

As other mothers have said before: it's hard to have children on two continents.

Friday morning, 9:15 am

OK at breakfast just now Toni clarified a couple things: Marianne is actually the psychologist. The long-haired younger lady is also named Villi (like Toni's helper) and SHE is the teacher and social worker for the children. Villi is Marianne's daughter. I asked Toni if I can get a picture of them. She said yes. I don't know whether Kevin got a picture of the director last night or not.

Later entry

Today's visit was fun and hard.

We started with Play-Doh. Made several shapes and figures. (Abby) made a cute little girl figure. Then she decided to cook. We kind of insisted on cleaning up the Play-Doh first. There's a cute kitche set up in that room: cupboards, pots, serving utensils, hot pads, aprons. She was cooking a pot of fish. Served it up in bowls. Had Kevin and I sit down. The big fish was for Daddy. She put on an apron. Put a bib on me. Tried to put one on Kevin but the snap enclosure was too small.. Then she made us put our arms down by our sides and pronounced some words which Toni translated as something like, "Dear children, now you are welcome to eat." Villi was laughing--she said that is how do it at the Center. So we ate including the baby doll who didn't sit up I the chair very well (kept sliding down.)

Then Dr. (Abby) was in service. She had Kevin lay down on the little bed. She draped his left leg with her pink baby blanket. (She'd first listened to his breathing.) She gave him tons of medicine and he was making terrible faces. She was giggling and laughing. She gave him a shot in the wrist. She cut and cut and cut on his leg with a little plastic knife. Then thumped on it rather hard--I guess like testing his reflexes. Villi or someone mildly criticized her for hitting him and her reply was, "He is a big man. He shouldn't feel pain." I was cracking up!!!

Then she was the patient and I was the nurse.

Lastly I was the patient. She kept pronouncing the results of my check-up as something that sounded like "lay"--which I was told meant "bad"--my x-ray, my temperature, maybe my breathing were all "lay" So I got medicine, too. And "ta-da" I was fixed.

We had a round of matching which she soundly won. By then we were discussing us having to leave, not coming back until summer. She said, "that is a long time." It seemed to me she started pulling back emotionally. I was trying not to cry.

I gave her one of the paper-fold thingy where you pick a number and read the message hidden under the flap. The 4 messages were: Mommy and Daddy love you very much; Mommy and Daddy will come back; Mommy and Daddy will think of you every day; Mommy and Daddy will pray for you everyday. We played the game: I read her the messages. Toni translated. I gave it to Abby. She said, "That is the best gift."

We also let her keep the baby doll, bottles, blanket, bowl; coloring book and crayons; matching cards; 1/2 of the foam flowers, letters and foam cards.

She gave each of us gifts: flower and butterfly for me; flower and fish for Kevin; flower and picture for Toni.

I took a picture of Marianne, Villi, Director A., Marty, Toni and (Abby) And of us with her as well.

I'm so used to hearing her called ---- that it seems natural. We do want to keep some form of her given name in her new name. It's important--more important than passing on the Anne/Ann/Anna for a middle name, I think. She very obviously LIKES her name.

Abby walked out to the car with us. She walked down the ramp without rails or help. She was wrapped in Mariannes's coat. She told us good-by very politely and sweetly but no eye contact. She was staying close to the people she is comfortable with. Of course, I would have loved a big hug with lots of feeling and emotion but this probably was healthier. She is attached to these people. They are her source of comfort and security.

On the way back to the capital city Toni discussed the Stage 2 paperwork. Most importantly I need to get the I-800 submitted to USCIS. I will need a couple documents from Carla and I need to copy the forms Toni gave me here in-country--those go with the I-800, along with Form Something-else. These forms are about adoption education and one saying the documents are correctly translated, one says we'll support her, one is the official referral. Apparently the I-800 is somewhat of a bear. Lillian had hers returned because she wrote "same" in one area rather than re-writing the address. Good grief! That is crazy! Then there are also a couple forms for Toni that will need to be signed, notarized, apostilled and sent to Toni, hopefully with another traveling family to save money.

This paperwork doesn't sound too complicated (except the I-800)--the important thing is I just need to get right at it because USCIS can take quite awhile. Good thing is we're supposed to have the same officer we had for our I-800A and he was quick before--once He got everything. The speed of the whole process I guess hangs on THAT. (I mistakenly thought we wouldn't have to update our physicals and local police clearances--but we will--they are only valid for 6 months, must be valid at time of court, ours expire in May, I think.

Along the way back to the capital city, we had to stop at the side of the road for awhile. Toni had prayed for the whole trip as we were starting on Sunday. We prayed more today. Marty called a trusted mechanic. He was told to turn the car off. He loosened the gas cap. He disconnected something under the hood and reconnected it--reset the car computer. The car worked fine. PTL!

Lord, please bless and use that car and just over-see all of its parts and systems. You see that Toni uses it to facilitate MANY adoptions. This is YOUR work. You are the one who said we are to visit orphans in their distress. Adoption is one very powerful way of doing that. So please Lord, just put your touch on that car. I can't really thin k of a biblical precedent but there probably is one. Please continue to bless Toni and Marty. Please dray them closer to you day by day. Hold them securely in your mighty hand.

We are now back in the Budapest Hotel in the same Room 609. Protesters in Libya are in the international news. Our wake-up call is to come at 3:45 am. We are to pay our bill, leave Toni's phone at the front desk and get our "dry" breakfasts. The taxi is to be here at 4:45. We need to be at the airport about 5:10. Plane leaves at 7:10 am