Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 - A Year of Waiting and Anticipation

If you know me at all, you know what 2012 was all about for me.  It was a year of lots of big decisions, lots of waiting, lots of stress and lots of excitement.  2013 is sure to be the craziest year of my life so far!  Here are some highlights of 2012 (both adoption and non-adoption related):

I started this entire process.  I looked into different programs, contacted Reece's Rainbow, the adoption agency and the home study agency.  I sought advice from family and friends.  I received a packet containing this beautiful picture.
I started filling out reams and reams of paperwork.  This would continue for the entire year.

Ummm...something must have happened......

I had an intake meeting with the social worker for my home study.  
My homestudy was officially started.  
Sara and I were officially matched on RR.

I spent a weekend in Indy with Anna and with some dear friends from Maine.  It was fun to reconnect with Lisa and her family.

I had my home visit with the social worker.
I did my 10 hours of training required by Hague.

I spent my spring break with my family in NY.  These are the kinds of things I do with my family:

My amazing work friends through me a toddler shower.

My family welcomed another little girl.  Kinsley Morgan Keller was born to my brother and sister-in-law on April 20th.

My home study was FINALLY finished.
My i-800A was submitted to USCIS.

I spent my last "I'm not a Mom" Mother's day.
I got to meet my first RR baby--Henry.

The women in my small group put together a huge yard sale for Sara.  Despite the yucky weather, it was a HUGE success.
My mother threw me a shower with some friends and family in NY.  My sister made the trip and I got to meet my new niece.  I also got to meet Angie and Jason.  (We have walked through this process together.  I can't wait to get our girls together.) 

Anna and I went on one last girls' vacation to Cozumel, Mexico.  Thanks to LivingSocial, we got a great deal.  It involved sitting in the pool and doing little else (except dodging some of the staff) for 6 days.  Amazing.

My I-800A application was approved by USCIS.  This let me start filling out grant applications and submit my dossier.

I dog sat for a week.  The dog survived and so did I!
I spent a weekend in Holland, MI with my dear friend Becky.

I received word that I had been given a large grant by Show Hope.  What a blessing!
Sara celebrated her 4th birthday---the last one she will know without a family.
My dossier was submitted.

I spent a weekend in Indy with Anna.  It involved lots of trips to Joanns and Redbox.  I have to appreciate a friend that loves low-key weekends as much as I do.
I also spent a chunk of time in NY with my parents.  My mom and I even went "camping."  We stayed in the air-conditioned RV and watched lots of ER and knit.  We did it in the state park so it's considered camping, right?

Sara's orphanage approved my request to adopt her.

I started my 13th year of teaching.  I'm really not sure how that happened.  I swear I'm not that old!

I got Sara's official referral in October.  Before that, I had a few pages and a couple of little pictures.  Her referral allowed me to find out tons more about her and fall even farther in love with her.  It also allowed me to accept her referral and tell my country and hers that I wanted to be her mom.  It also meant I got a new picture.

I was issued my approval by USCIS.  A huge step in the process!

I spent three days in Minnesota at a conference for work.  I got to experience the Mall of America and add another state to my list.  I think we decided I'm at 40.

Not much really happened on the adoption front.  I found out that Sara wouldn't be home in time for Christmas and that I would have to wait until January to travel.  The rest of the month was spent waiting and waiting and waiting.
I got to hang out with Angie.  We had our own little "our girls won't be home for Christmas pity party."  We also went and met Selah and Yvonne.  I had been following their story since August and had seen Selah in the hospital days after their accident.  It was nice to finally meet them!
I flew to NY for Thanksgiving.  My sister didn't make it home but the rest of the family got some time together.  I got to spend a little time with my aunt and 4 cousins.  I'm not sure the last time we all were together.

Sara's Article 5 was issued.  This is the promise from the US Embassy that they will issue her a visa to come to the US.  This means that I finally got a travel date.  I booked tickets, got a visa, booked the hotel.  Traveling planning was in full swing.

I also got to Skype with Sara.  It was absolutely priceless.  I didn't really say much.  I just sat and watched her.  She's convinced my dad is Santa Claus and kept asking where the dog was.  Poor child may be very disappointed when she finally gets home!

I got to spend the day waiting for this little princess to arrive into the world.  Her mom and I have worked together forever and it was such a privilege to spend a day in the hospital awaiting her arrival.

I drove to NY for Christmas.  Every time I drive, I vow I'll never do it again.  But, I needed to bring back a lot of pork from an adoption fundraiser so I drove.  I managed to miss most of the snow on the trip but there was definitely plenty at my parents' house.

Our Christmases tend to be very low key affairs, which is really how must of us prefer it!  We spent some time with my nieces---something I just don't get to do enough of.  It was fun to think about what Christmas will look like next year with another little girl running around!

(I also got an iPhone.  Not sure if this is blog-worthy or not but I love it!)  

Lessons Learned:
*I have some of the most amazing, generous, giving, supportive friends and family in the world.
*Sometimes, if you have the guts to speak your craziest, wildest ideas out loud, you'll learn that they aren't crazy at all.
*Sometimes, it's best to not really know how hard something is going to be when you get into it.
*There are good people in the world.  People that will help complete strangers.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

I Don't Hate Skype Anymore

Today, I got to skype with my daughter.  Since I only have a few small pictures of her (that all look different), this was an amazing experience that I've had mixed feelings about for a while.  I've always hating skype.  In some ways, I was really dreading it.  Skype is awkward.   As much as I hate it, I was not going to miss a chance to see my little girl.

When we first connected, she was pretty quiet and reserved.  I felt like I should be chatting with her more but she wasn't really talking.  The psychologist did a great job telling her that this was her mommy.  I'm at my parents' house so they also came in and we introduced her to them and her aunt and some of her uncles.  She warmed up pretty quickly.

She's precious.  She chattered a lot.   She kept asking where the dog was.  (Sorry, hon.  No dog here!)  She also was convinced that my dad was Santa Claus.  Any time he got in the shot, she started talking about Papa Noe.  I didn't understand everything she said but I was encouraged by how much she was talking and how in-tune she was to what was going on.  She clearly wanted to get down and play but she knew every time Santa Claus walked past the computer.

My heart is full tonight.  I'm not sure how I'll wait another 18 days.   Until then, I have a couple of screen shots to look at.

Not really sure about this whole Skype thing.

Blowing kisses to her Mami!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas, Mija!

I've known for a while that this Christmas would be bittersweet.  I really thought my little girl would be home.  Obviously, she's not.  For a while, I considered just skipping Christmas all together.

She has still been very well celebrated.  She received gifts--something that she probably hasn't experienced much in her life.  Even though she doesn't know how loved she is, I am touched and honored by how cherished she is.  I have the most amazing friends and family that continue to overwhelm me with their generosity and support.

I love knowing my baby is opening a gift today from me--her mom.  I'm not even sure if she knows what a mom is or who am I or how much her life is about to change.  Regardless, knowing that she is opening a teddy bear today that will allow her to hear my voice brings me immense amounts of joy mixed with a little sadness.  My baby is celebrating her last Christmas without a family.

Mommy's Coming Mija!  Just 3 more weeks!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Visa Holder

I am officially the holder of a Colombian Adoption Visa.  I took yesterday off from work (the first day I've taken off since March when I did my adoption training) and spent the day in the city.

I stopped at the Secretary of State's Office to get some things apostilled for travel and for the visa.  They didn't like a couple of the notarizations so I made a quick trip down to the bank to get them fixed.  (Since I had to do this last time I went, I knew it wasn't a big deal and didn't panic this time.)  The woman that looked at the papers at the bank insisted that I had to have a Spanish speaking notary since the documents were in Spanish.  (I still think she was wrong.)  Fortunately, it didn't take them long to find one and I was done with the whole process pretty quickly.

I got to check out the German Christmas Market downtown before heading to the Colombian Consulate to get my visa.  I didn't really know what to expect but it was all a lot less complicated and dramatic than I thought it would be.  The website clearly listed what paperwork they wanted so I was able to hand it all in and answer a few questions.  I waited about 15 minutes and I now have a visa glued into my passport.  (I've always wanted something important looking in my passport.)  

I also have plane tickets purchased for myself, Sara, and my mom.  I had been working with an adoption travel agency but it was taking forever and I was getting impatient.  There were a lot of little details to work out and it was not going well by email.   I need a round trip ticket that can be changed.  Sara needs a one way ticket.  My mom is going from a different city and only staying a week.  None of us wanted to fly over night.  We preferred to layover in Atlanta.  I finally just called Delta myself.  It took several hours over the phone and a trip to Midway but all three of us have tickets and we got a great deal.  There is something about plane tickets that just make things seem final!

I have found a friend that has the ability to record Skype calls.  I'm just waiting to hear when it will be scheduled.  I'm really hoping it happens this week so we can record it.  Warning:  If it is recorded, anyone who comes into personal contact with me in the next month will most likely be forced to watch it.  I have heard that another family has had their call scheduled for the 18th.  I'm hoping and praying that Sara and I can talk that day as well.

I am so excited that it is now under a month until I get to meet my little girl.  I feel like I can finally start counting down the days.  30.....

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Travel Planning

I finally got the ok to book my travel.  Yay!!!  As previously reported, I will be meeting Sara on Monday, January 14th at 8AM.  The appointment is now officially on the books.

My mom and I will be flying on January 12th to Colombia.  (That's 5 weeks from today!)  When I was talking to the agency rep, she kept saying I should fly on the 13th.  I finally stopped and told her that I would be flying on the 12th.  After all the bad travel experiences I've had, I'm not risking missing this appointment to save the price of one night in the hotel.  Plus, I'm flying from Chicago and my mom is flying from Buffalo.  Chances are good it will be snowing in at least on of those places on January 13th.

I told a friend that we would spend the 13th settling in and exploring the neighborhood.  She replied:  "You mean standing outside the orphanage gate yelling Sara's name?"  I laughed but she might be on to something....

I emailed the travel agency on Thursday after I got the news but didn't hear back from them on Friday.  BOO!!!  I'm going to call Delta today and see what I can get on my own.  Their website says they have special fares for adoption but it seems like you have to actually get someone who knows that on the phone.    I really want to book these tickets!

I am also waiting for a confirmation from the hotel with the pricing package.  (Makes it sound like some elaborate vacation.)  My legal rep in Colombia is friends with the owner of the hotel so she's hoping to get me a good deal.  (Yet another answer to prayer!)  I've researched lodging arrangements quite a bit and decided this is where we would stay before I knew there might be some connections there.

My visa appointment is scheduled for Friday at the Consulate downtown.  I was going to have to take a day off anyway to get some stuff apostilled so now I will make a day of it.  I'm hoping the weather is nice so I can enjoy being in the city at Christmastime a little bit as well.  I have all the paperwork notarized and ready to go.  I just need to go get my pictures done.  Not my favorite thing but I doubt I can pull of the defiant, pouty face quite as well as Sara did.  

After months and months of working to bring my little girl home, it's finally starting to feel real.  I can't wait to have my tickets and my visa in hand as I head to my parents' for Christmas break.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Article 5

I found out on Friday that my Article 5 had been issued.  (A week to the day after I was told it would be.)  I'm learning, once again, that "tomorrow" means "sometime in the next two weeks"  in some cultures.  

The legal rep in Colombia will now go book the official appointment to meet Sara.  After that, I can finally book my tickets and get my visa.  I'm starting to worry that the visa thing is going to run into my Christmas break.  Ugh!!  I just want it all done already.  But, once again, it's out of my control.  So, I wait.

The good news is that I've been told I can Skype with Sara.  I hate Skype.  I think it's incredibly awkward and I don't enjoy it.  BUT, I will do anything--even Skype--to be able to see my baby.  I'm waiting to hear back about when this will happen.

When I first heard we were going to Skype, the teacher in me kicked in.  I thought:  I will get to see if she follows directions.  I can hear her speech patterns.  I will be able to see how active and/or attentive she is.  I will get lots of good information on her functioning levels.    Then, the mom in me kicked in.  I will get to see her little face.  I will get to hear her voice.  I will get to see her mannerisms.  I will have more than just a couple of pictures to remember/know/love her by.   Then, reality kicked in.  How am I ever going to get through this?  I don't want to scare her to death by bawling as soon as I see her.  I seriously didn't used to cry this much.  Will I even be able to speak?

It's going to be interesting, that's for sure.  I feel so blessed to have this chance and I hope it comes together soon.  I'll let you know how it goes and if I forever scar her with my blubbering.