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!