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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Much has happened in a very short time but the amazing thing is we are right now in Haskovo, Bulgaria and will meet our daughter tomorrow!  I will post more when I don't have to type on the iPad but so far it has been an amazing adventure!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Amazing Day!

Today we got an email from our agency that included seven new pictures of Penka as well as a video of her sending us a brief message. It was amazing and the best way to start my day!  If was great to see her, she has grown even more beautiful, but to hear her voice for the first time was an incredibly emotional experience.  She appears sweet and embarrased but smiling and excited as well.  She sent us this message which the agency translated for us: 

"Hello, I’m Penka. I’m 14 years old. I am happy that I will have a family like you. I hope that everything will go well between us and I am looking forward to seeing you.
Thank you very much for the presents. I like your photos very much. The album is great!
See you soon!"
Getting this video is  like having an ultrasound when you are pregnant.  You can't believe all that you have been experiencing is really tied to another human being and that your lives are never going to be the same, in a very good way. Having experienced both avenues to motherhood now I can say they are equally emotional, rewarding, stressful, scary, and amazing. Sometimes children grow in our bodies but they ALWAYS grow in our hearts.
We also got answers to my many questions on various things like what her favorite color, favorite foods...moussaka, french fries and chocolate, and her favorite activities...taking walks and playing basketball. 
I can't believe we are so close to meeting this amazing young girl and embracing her into our family.  I am finally feeling we are close enough to traveling that I can justify buying her some presents and have plans to hit Kohl's this weekend now that I have her favortie color and size!
What a great way to kick off the weekend, can't wait for more good news to arrive in the next weeks.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Tik Tok....

Our dossier was sent off to Bulgaria Sept 21, 2012.  Our agency case worker sent us confirmation that it had been received and was in process for translation and authentication on Sept 26th.  Since then the Bulgaria adoption groups on Facebook have been buzzing with news of written referrals and travel dates.  Most sharing that they are only being given about 10 days advance notice for travel and that the travel dates had come about 6 weeks after submission.  If that timeline holds true for us that would put us traveling sometime in early November I expect. 

Currently we are only at week 1 so all I can do is sit and wait.  This is the time we have been warned about that will be most difficult since we are so close yet still so far.  I can't imagine what it is like for families adopting healthy younger children who are told they will have two year waiting periords at this stage.  It must be excrutiating.  6 weeks seems like too much but with that perspective it is but a moment in time. 

For now we must be content to prep mentality and financially to be ready to travel at the drop of a hat to a foriegn country to meet our daughter to be who does not speak any English.  I have more than enough school work for my masters program to keep me busy after work and weekends not to mention just normal family life and Jamie's activities but it is hard to stay focused and not day dream about what is about the major change coming into our lives so very soon. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I800A Approved!!

We received our official approval from USCIS in the mail on Friday, we are now all set to prepare our Dossier for Bulgaria! The I800A process was a bit stressful as our case worker requested some additional documentation that delayed everything a few weeks and accelerated my gray hair production by 1000%.  This is a major milestone and now we must assemble all the documents and get them notarized and then go to the Oregon State Secretary of State's office and get an apostille on everything.  Then Fed-Ex it all to our agency and they will forward to the NGO in Bulgaria who will deliver to the Ministry of Justice in Bulgaria.  The MOJ will then, if all prayers are answered, approve our dossier and give us a formal written referral for Penka and our first travel date should follow shortly afterwards.  I am still holding out hope that we will travel  for our bonding visit before the end of the year and then again in late winter/early spring to bring her home.  Please keep the prayers and good thoughts coming we need them now more than ever, we are getting closer and closer and simply can't wait to have our family complete!

I did forget to post on August 14th we got this email:
”The social worker at the orphanage has confirmed that Penka has received the package, that she liked the presents and was very excited and happy.
When sending the package, we've asked that some photos and a video of Penka are taken for her adoptive family. The social worker confirmed that Penka has agreed to do this and that they will send us photos and video soon. We will send you those, along with an update about her summer, as soon as we have them.”

This was VERY good news indeed.  We can't wait to see video of her and learn more about her.  It will help make the waiting a bit more bearable.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Moving right along!

Today we got a letter from UCIS that we are scheduled for out biometric appt on August 27th.  That is speedy turn around!  Hoping and praying this is a sign of good things to come...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Hurry up and wait...

Today I got a text from the US Customs and Immigration Services confirming they have received and logged in our I800A application.  This brief little text represents months of prep work including a full Home Study process with a social worker two different sets of fingerprints, state and FBI background clearances, US State Dept apostilling of the FBI documents, and many many Fed-Ex shipping fees.  We now sit and wait to be called in for yet another fingerprinting session and then finally the approval to send our dossier to Bulgaria.    I have heard the USCIS can take up to 12 weeks to complete the approval of our application.  That is way outside my comfort zone and patience capacity.  At the suggestion of our case worker I included a cover letter with picture of Penka and a brief request for expedited handling due to her age.  I hope and pray that does the job so we can keep this process moving.  We feel the pressure of each day ticking by, acutely aware that Penka has spent another day in an orphanage possibly losing hope of ever having a family.  To reassure her of our commitment and help her get to know us better I made her a scrapbook of our family, our home, and Oregon.  It was finally delivered to the Bulgarian agency a week ago after sitting in customs way to long and hopefully it is on its way to her now.  We have already begun to think of her as our daughter and growing to love her and anxious to meet her.  I hope that comes through in the scrapbook and that she is as excited about being a part of our family as we are.  We have a lot going on in our lives, my grad school, our general work lives, Jamie's taekwondo, summer swimming at the club pool every night, Cub Scouts but none of that distracts us from thinking about Penka all day every day.  We miss her and we haven't even met her.  We feel her void and she has never set foot in our home.  Our hearts and lives are so open and ready to receive her that every day we ache with a longing for her we never could have expected.  When we were busy on our "paper chase" preparing to submit the I800A and creating the care package for her there was a bustle of activity and purpose that helped us feel like we were actively engaged in bringing her home.  Now all we can do is sit and wait and it is so much harder than I imagined even though it is a notoriously common feeling and talked about in adoption circles ad nauseam.  It will only get worse once the dossier is sent over to Bulgaria and we are then waiting for an official written referral and travel date.  As hard as it is for us to wait I worry more about how Penka is doing with the wait time.  I pray she believes our intentions to be sincere and she is hopeful and excited.  I also pray that after all these years in an orphanage that her heart is still open to loving and being loved.  There is an amazing future in store for our family and she is an integral part of that.  Until then I am using my power of positive intentions to try and influence the cosmic powers to push along our application and I am going to go give a giant hug and kiss to the child I am blessed to already have under my roof.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Happy Birthday Penka!

After what seemed like a bit of a game of "Who's on First?" I was able to finally verify that Penka's birthday is in fact July 1st.  I have mixed emotions today.  We are feeling very connected to this girl who will be our daughter and already think of her as our daughter even though we have never met her.  Knowing today is her birthday and we can not be with her to help her celebrate and show her how special she is makes me a bit sad.  I bought her a few small things to send her but it just doesn't seem enough.  Our son Jamie has enjoyed large entertainment filled birthday parties since his very first one.  We have rented party rooms all across the Portland Metro area in an effort to show him and our friends and family what a big deal we think his birthday is.  Yet, today our newest family member celebrates her birthday in an orphanage, possibly without any recognition at all.  It breaks my heart, I can not make this process go any faster but I desire so greatly to press the fast forward button and get to that moment where she is finally home once and for all.  Today Penka turns 14, one more year into her teens and I hope at least today she knows there is a family who wants her, already loves her, and that God willing this will be her very last birthday in an orphanage.

The last month has been a whirlwind of home study activities and now I feel like we have reached the first of many hurry up and wait stages.  We successfully completed our home visit with the social worker and will complete our final meeting with her over lunch next Thursday.  At the end of our first visit she was kind enough to share that she would be approving our home study so that was a huge relief.  We have completed our medical exams (two for me, one for Eric) and have signed Doctor approvals (which could be a whole post on its own!), gotten six personal references requested and returned, applied for and received our passports, been fingerprinted twice and and received clearance from the state or Oregon and now waiting for the FBI clearance to come back.

I have also started connecting with some other families online via Facebook and Yahoo Groups.  There is a whole adoption community out there interacting and supporting one another that until you are focused on adoption who have no idea exists.  It is nice to have folks to post questions to and see if their experiences are similar for wait times etc.  It helps ease some of the anxiety and nervous energy that naturally surrounds this process.  It is really neat to realize we are part of something much bigger than just our family and that there are thousands of strangers out there ready and willing to share their experiences and knowledge with us.

I leave for my Masters program on campus residency on July 15th and was really hoping we could have our Dossier finished before then but it is not looking like that is going to happen.  Apparently the FBI takes 6-9 weeks to clear the prints and I think we are just going on 4 weeks now.  Once those come back we have to turn around and send them back to DC to have them apostilled by the State Department.  Then after they come back we complete our I800A immigration application and then take all our documents down to Salem to have our State's Attorney office apostille all of it (probably some notary stuff before then too).  Just not looking like it is going to happen in the next 14 days.  On top of everything else apparently the Bulgarian government shuts down for about 6 weeks in July and August for summer holiday.  The chances of us getting Penka home in 2012 is now looking very very slim.

All we can do is keep on pushing forward and hoping and praying for the most expedited processing possible on all fronts.  It is more than just the fact that the adoption tax credit expires in 2012 we just want her home.  Every day precious moments of her childhood slip away from us and we feel the weight of each days importance on our shoulders and hearts.  For now all I can do is so a prayer and send loving birthday wishes across continents to her and hope she feels just a little bit happier and more joy knowing we are on our way ASAP!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Chinese Take-Out Fortune Last Weekend

Confirmed Match Today!

We got an email from our case worker this moring, it was short and very sweet containing the news we have been waiting to hear for the last two weeks. It said simply,

Dear Beth,

Good Morning! You have been matched with Penka successfully during yesterday's meeting of the Intercountry Adoption Council. So now...her file awaits the rest of your dossier documents. ; )

 Please let me know of your questions as you compile your dossier.

Have a great day!

All my best,

Carla Tripp
Certified Adoption Investigator
Social Services Director
About A Child
515 221 2231

This is great news, it means our application has been accepted and Penka is preliminarily matched with our family and she is taken off the eligible child list.  As each day goes by we already feel more connected to her and our biggest fear was another family might beat us to getting matched with her. 

We have already begun our dossier prep which includes months of work to complete mountains of paperwork, multiple background checks, and a social worker "home study" of our family.  We have been fingerprinted once and just found out we have to do it again.  It is not everyday you spend your lunch hour getting fingerprinted and now I get to experience it twice! 
It has crossed my mind many times if every person who wanted to have biological children had to go through the same process the world would be a much different place indeed.  So many parents take for granted the ease and lack of formality involved to start their families.  For some the only option is adoption and the process is long, stressful, invasive, and incredibly expensive.  The flip side to that is of course if there were such standards to have a bio kids then there would not be children to adopt and that would deny so many wonderful families and children the opportunity to be united as we hope to be some day soon with Penka.   I have accepted that this is just part of a bigger plan that I don't fully understand but can respect and appreciate.

We have just barely stepped away from the starting gate on this journey, and realizing it is a marathon and not a sprint, but we are in it for the long haul, savouring this great news, and already visualizing the finish line!