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Friday, March 27, 2009

Distractions

In-between the mountains of additional paperwork for this adoption, I try to fit things to keep me from losing my mind and going postal on our homestudy worker. This past week or so has been exceptionally nice. On Thursday last I flew to Houston to spend a few days with my friends Paivi and Euan. We met them when we all lived in DC. Alas, they moved to Houston for Euan's work and we moved to Chicago for Len's work. I think the Vast Cosmos got their wires crossed however: Paivi is from Finland and has managed to land in one of the hottest places in America and I'm, at heart, still a Florida girl and somehow I managed to land in the snowy mid-west.

This is a picture of their pool which was just a delicious break from the temps. here. The weather was perfect the entire time with highs in the mid-70s and bright sunshine. Flowers were blooming and it just smelled green...you know that smell of things growing and dirt moving to accomodate the new roots? Yeah, that smell.


This was taken at a BBQ place owned by lesbians and called "Beavers". Enough said.



We had a great few days together that included a trip to the Rothko Chapel, bellydancing with Silvia and shopping at the Houston Galleria.

Upon my return to Chicago, our friend Paul from DC flew in to spend a few days at our place. We were joined for brunch by Greg who lives near us but has known Paul for years (small world). Here we are at Tweet--another lesbian-owned eatery (I'm sensing a theme here that I had not noticed until now....).



After a long morning of shopping along Clark Street, Len and I left as we had tickets to see the London Symphony downtown. It was a beautiful concert with music by Sergei Prokofiev, conducted by Valery Gergiev with Vladimir Feltsman on piano.

We met back up that evening for Korean dinner and drinks at JinJu and then on to Mary's Attic for the Roxy Bellows Show.

Thursday I started my drawing class and I love it. It's charcoal and the subjects vary from still-life to landscape to figure drawing. It runs 10 weeks and is 3 hours each time. Classes are at the Lillstreet Art Center.

Today I went to the gym and lunch with my friend Karen. She owns a house not too far from us and has a nice, sunny, EMPTY patch of garden that she has offered to let me use for a veggie garden. I had been bemoaning the fact that when we moved from DC I lost my raised planter beds and that our decks here don't get enough sun to do most veggies. So I went over this afternoon and measured the space and inspected the soil (it is perfect and just needs a bit of weeding). I think I should be able to put in some early spring seeds soon--the crocuses have come up in our neighbor's yard and the peonies have buds on them. Karen has an irrigation system so watering won't be a problem and I can go over when I have time to keep things harvested. Of course, the weather channel is predicting the chance for snow this weekend so I won't get too excited just yet but it looks like we are turning the corner--the ice has finally melted off the lake!

Besides drawing and potential gardening, I'm taking a 6 week Qigong class on Mondays. I'm hoping to find a bellydance studio near our condo that has classes during the day (all that I've found so far are at night when I'm sleepy). I'm trying to schedule a time to meet up with a couple of local Chicago women who are adopting from Nepal and currently have their paperwork at the Ministry. I'm very much looking forward to meeting them and talking about what brought them to this journey.

This blog has been a lifesaver in so many ways. Expressing my frustration through writing has always been a mainstay for me. This new medium of blogging allows me to both write my way out of grief and to read other's blogs and see that I am not alone in this. I have met other adoptive parents who are either currently on or have been on this same roller-coaster ride and are living to tell about it.

It's a GREAT distraction.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Should I point out the Governor's name is incorrect?

Apparently it doesn't matter that the Embassy in Nepal doesn't know what kind of visa we will end up with; we still must put SOMETHING down on our IL homestudy or else DCFS will not accept it. I guess they would prefer that we make it up rather than admit we don't know....not a good precedent to teach wanna-be parents but ok, if forced, we must play along I suppose.

So our agency recommended we put down the IR-4 since it is more stringent and requires more paperwork up front.

*nice*

We received a 40 page packet (printed front and back) which includes such items as:

"How will you document the practicing of your quarterly fire evacuation plan?"

"What is your procedure of making sure everyone is aware of your evacuation plan for your home?"

It also includes a water temperature agreement form, yet another corporal punishment form, a form on which we are to draw a floor plan with measurments of the bedroom and all furniture in that room to include a description of the type of bedding provided (finally I can used my design degree for this adventure) and a few pages that are in Spanish that don't look like they are a match for anything we have in English which means we will probably get more forms to replace the Spanish ones.

Meanwhile, our homestudy has been sent to DCFS for processing with a note that says we are dutifully filling out the pile of papers to be a licensed foster care family. Still no word on how long that will take.

Oh, and I suspect we may have to re-do all of this paperwork when they discover that all of the forms still have Rod Blagojevich's name on them.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Clear as a green river

In an effort to avoid having to become licensed as a foster care family, I wrote to the US Embassy in Nepal to clarify the Visa situation. Here was the response:

Thank you for your email. We issue visas after completion of several steps, the last being an interview with the PAPs here at the US Embassy. Thus, we can not say beforehand which type of visa will be issued until then.
Regards,
Adoptions Unit
Embassy of the United States of America
Kathmandu, Nepal


Hmmm. Doesn't really clear it up does it? So I've asked our agency (with Megan's permission) to just leave off specifying the Visa on the homestudy. It didn't need to be on our VA homestudy so I'm hoping that IL will not require it for some obscure reason. Still haven't heard back from the homestudy agent on this yet.

And since we are submitting a new homestudy to Nepal, Megan confirmed that the new rules are that every single page of the homestudy must be notarized instead of just the last page of the lengthy tome.

In the meantime, we watched the "greening" of the Chicago River yesterday. This is what happens when the winter lasts too long in a city--you start making up things to entertain the cold and pasty masses.

We are on Upper Wacker Drive between the Columbus Dr. Bridge and Michigan Avenue on the south side of the river. This is the boat first coming into view under the Columbus Bridge. There are plumbers in Hazmat suits dumping vegetable dye (orange) into the river.







Then another boat follows behind and "stirs" the dye into the water.








The water will stay green for several days we've been told. These pics were taken around 11am. When we walked back over the river several hours later it was still this vibrant.



Happy St. Patty's day.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Punk'd

Ever see the show where horrible things keep happening to someone and it's all being filmed for other people's viewing pleasure? I'm convinced there must be hidden cameras in our house because surely I'm being punk'd.

Our homestudy agent called today after multiple emails/phone calls to find out if our homestudy had been finished on Monday as we were originally told. She said she had some more things we have to do before proceeding.

Of course we do because nothing about this has been easy.

It involves more fingerprinting. Oh yes. You read that correctly. You know why? This is a good one...brace yourselves.....

Because the fingerprints we did two months ago for the State of Illinois can only be sent to EITHER our homestudy agency OR DCFS--they can't look at the same fingerprints that are in ELECTRONIC FILES ON THE STATE COMPUTER!

Maybe we should just leave our fingers there so we don't have to keep returning with them. Although, with 10 of them for each of us to keep track of, and the incompetency they've already displayed with their system, I'm sure at least one of them would get lost.

And the reason we need new fingerprints specifically for DCFS eyes only? Wait, it's gets better....because the state of Illinois requires that we be licensed as a foster care family in order to adopt. Licensing typically takes three months but our agent did say she would call DCFS and explain our situation in the hopes that we can move it along faster.

So why the licensing? It turns out that we will be bringing home our child (I'm still assuming we actually will be bringing a child home someday...) on an IR-4 Visa instead of an IR-3. According to Megan, when Nepal was a two-tripper, you brought home your child with the IR-3. Now, because it is only one trip, you will, in essence, accept your child with the matching paperwork prior to seeing her.

· IR3 visa means that the child has been classified as an immediate relative (hence “IR”) and was physically seen by all of his/her parents before the adoption took place.

· IR4 visa means that the child was not physically seen by all of his/her parents before the adoption took place; therefore, the adoption is not full and final under USCIS law and the child must be readopted in order to be granted U.S. citizenship.

Naturally, becoming licensed as a foster family involves more paperwork. I think I'm going to need a bigger binder.

Ashton Kutcher! Get your sorry ass out here and turn off those cameras!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Twisting in the wind

I know I've left you twisting in the wind for a few days. Mostly there is nothing to report. And I have been trying to keep myself busy out of the house since Charis is not here, stalking me on the computer, stepping on the keyboard while I type. Amazing how one cat can make your home feel less lonely.

Fortunately, right around the block is a shelter for cats. Since we had some cat food, medicines, litter, etc. left over, I took them over there to donate and while there, asked if I could just sit in one of the cat rooms for a bit. Surprisingly, it was theraputic AND I did not come home with one!

Our homestudy is supposedly finished but we don't know if it's been sent to DCFS. I call and email every single day to our homestudy agency for an update...squeeky wheel and all. I'm either going to end up being incredibly annoying to the point that she will finish it just to get me off her back or incredibly annoying to the point that she will work even more sloooowwwllllyyyy.

The message boards are silent as well. There was a flurry of activity with people being excited because they were given a reference number from Nepal for their dossier (we did not have one as our dossier is incomplete now). Turns out the reference numbers don't really have any bearing on anything other than to let you know that it was logged in to the central agency along with every other form that anyone turns into the government.

The only upside for me during this interminable wait to get yet another I-171 is that nothing is happening in Nepal yet. If I started seeing referrals and other people receiving travel dates, knowing that our dossier had been up-to-date until 2 months ago and now we were at the back of the line...oh, it would be ugly.

Sounds petty I know, especially to those of you who read this and who currently have your completed paperwork at the Ministry. I used to be the person who could be happy for someone

because you've just had your fourth baby without even planning it

or

because you got a referral after waiting only 6 months

and even

because you got (oops!) pregnant while waiting to adopt.

I do know that many people have come to the Nepal program after having failed adoptions when Vietnam closed. Their stories are my nightmare (a referral, possibly a trip to meet your child, and then the US government closes adoptions and you leave empty-handed). I am not immune to the fact that we ALL want this to be over so we can move on and live our lives the way most other people do--free of repetitive notarized forms, free from checking every message board and blog for news.

But I have run out of happiness for other people's turns. I just want our turn to come.

Friday, March 6, 2009

And the first quarter of 2009 is well underway...

We received our newest homestudy yesterday for fact-checking. After making a few changes and discussing with Megan, we have returned it to our agency for forwarding to the DCFS. Haven't heard how long it will take for our agency to actually send it to DCFS but I'm hoping it will be pronto of course.

Otherwise, there is absolutely nothing happening on either of the two adoption fronts.

And it's already March.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

In Memorium--our beloved Charis is gone

Charis died this morning at 2am. She was with us for almost 17 years and our hearts are broken. Please let us share a few pictures of our girl.




Her favorite place to be was usually in my lap.


She could catch tiny paper balls in mid-air.


Helping me write a blog post.


Enjoying a snooze in the window.


Exhausted in front of the fire after opening Christmas presents.


Watching the squirrels and birds.


Her new view in our Chicago condo.

"Please stop blogging and pay attention to meeeee!"


Waking from a sun-nap.


One of my favorite photos of her.









Sunday, March 1, 2009

Is that a social worker in your uterus or are you just happy to see me?

When Len and I decided that we wanted to add a member to our family it was an intensely personal decision, not one that we took lightly. In fact, a few of you would probably say that we gave it too much thought! We discussed our finances, our mental and emotional capacity to handle children, how many children we would like, at what point we would stop if we couldn’t conceive naturally, would we ever adopt? In other words, we did not step into this on a whim because we were lonely or needed to “spice up” or “save” our marriage.

Now, not only is our quest to have a family no longer personal, it is open to all kinds of scrutiny by any number of strangers including doctors, social workers and people who read this blog. Granted, when we chose to pursue infertility treatments, we knew there would be doctors and insurance companies who had a stake in having all of our information. And when I started this blog I also knew that an open, non-password protected forum would mean that anything I write would be “out there” for judgment and comment. Likewise, I knew that adopting would also carry with it an invasion of privacy into every area of our lives.

What I didn’t know was how much all of this has would shape my views on reproductive rights and how people choose to form their families.

I'm willing to bet that a few of you let out a more than audible, "Do what?" when it was revealed that Nadya Suleman not only gave birth to premature octuplets, but that she also had six other kids waiting for her at home. And she lives with her mom. And she doesn't have a job. And the father is not involved whatsoever. Did that story just get weirder and weirder, or what, right?

My initial reaction was to say,

Are you kidding me with this? We have spent the last 4 years with various social workers, psychologists, doctors, etc. examining every aspect of our lives just in trying to adopt a child but anyone with enough eggs and sperm can bring a litter into the world. She has no visible means of support, no partner, SIX OTHER KIDS…I mean, geez, is this for real??

When Nadya Suleman walked into that fertility clinic, she was presumed innocent and was allowed to conceive as many babies as the doctor would implant. When Len and I wanted to adopt, we were presumed guilty and have had to prove our ability to raise ONE child. And now we’ve had to prove it again because our “proof” expired.

If we had no job, no house, or were not married we would not be allowed to pursue adoption in either of the countries we’ve chosen. Least of all here in the U.S. To adopt you must meet a plethora of requirements and still there is no guarantee that at the end of the road, you will have a child. So what right does she have to create this many children without meeting some sort of requirements other than enough money to pay a rather questionable doctor to implant her?

But I find myself intensely conflicted with this train of thought. People are saying she should give up her children, that she should have donated her embryos to an infertile, that the doctor should not have allowed her to continue with fertility treatments.

Aren’t I the one who has been complaining for months years about how difficult the state makes it to adopt? Would I have wanted to be subjected to a psychologist and a social worker before I pursued medical help with conception? Or how about before we even knew we would need an army of doctors?

Those of you out there who have had a bio child think about this:

What if, before going off birth control, you had to go through pre-conception counseling complete with 4 social worker home visits, fingerprinting, documentation of financial stability, reference letters from 6 non-family members attesting that you would make a good parent and that your marriage is stable, police background checks in every state you’ve lived in since you were 18, etc. etc.? What if you had to sign a form agreeing that you would never, under any circumstances, ever, use corporal punishment (this includes any form of physical contact in anger) on your child? What if you had to have a social worker visit you when your biological child was one month old? Six months old? A year old? What if you had to provide pictures and a written update on your child to a social worker every year until your child turned 16?

Some of you I’m sure would view this as good thing. Maybe there would be a lot more well-cared-for children out there, less single parents on welfare. Or maybe you would view this as an invasion of privacy—government in our private lives, much the way we view China’s one-child policy. How dare the government tell me what to do in the bedroom!

So how can I come down on the side of those who are excoriating Nadya because she wanted a large family? I remember the first news report announcing the birth of octuplets. Matt Lauer was smiling, marveling at the miracle of this many live births to one mother. Nothing was known yet about who the parent(s) were but everyone was already on their side, rooting for the blessing of so many children to parents who were obviously infertile and had waited a long time to have their family.

And then there she was. Just Nadya. No father. Six other children, all conceived via IVF. No job. No house. Looking strangely like Angelina Jolie. And we all turned against her. She is no longer presumed innocent.

And now, as if those of us who have suffered through infertility treatments haven’t suffered enough, we are having a public debate over reproductive rights. It's a shame that the media has turned this into such a circus, this isolated incident involving an obviously questionable and renegade doctor who I think holds most of the blame if there is any in this situation. And all it serves to do is make it harder for other people, other reasonable individuals, to explore their reproductive options. Because all of a sudden people are now saying asinine things about how women should be forced to adopt if they can't conceive a child without medicine, or how the people of California should be able to force Nadya to give up her children because their tax dollars are being used to help raise them. Yes, how about we give a multiple choice test to women and let a committee decide who is and who isn't fit to be a mother. Anyone with tattoos or multiple piercings need not apply!

Absolutely I do not think it is physically possible for one person to take care of the basic needs of 14 children. She is going to need a considerable amount of help, and as much as people might be disgusted by Nadya, there are 14 children here who had no say at all as to what conditions they'd be born into. But again, I think this is an extremely isolated incident, and making sweeping statements and judgments about women's reproductive rights and options because of it is ill-conceived and bone-headed.

This topic is interesting (and unsettling) to me because it makes hypocrites of us all. Myself included. Is it easy to judge her? Of course. Are we all judging her? Yes! But I remember that childhood warning "when you point your finger at someone, three fingers point back at you." And I believed it. Still do. So here I am pointing at myself, wondering just how many social workers will fit inside my uterus before I explode.

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