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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Department of Homeland Security

Today we visited the Omaha office for the Department of Homeland Security (which houses the USCIS). This was in order to sort out our I-600A "issues". Rather than whining about how stupid the whole process is... and the USCIS... which I totally could right now, I'm going to list out things that we've learned in the last few days. I am doing this to try to help out anyone who is thinking about international adoption or is in the middle of it right now.

1. Filing your I-600A is one of the first things you should do. The procedure is a long one, therefore, it's a good idea to start it right away so that you can work on other documents during this long, drawn out process.

2. You don't need to have your homestudy completed to turn in your I-600A. You can turn in the homestudy report later.

3. It's always best to hand deliver the I-600A to your appropriate office.

4. You must make a appointment on-line to turn in your I-600A. The USCIS no longer accepts walk-ins. This was done in response to the hours of waiting that people used to have to endure. You can make an appointment at: www.infopass.uscis.gov In their defense, it's a pretty slick website. (Blogger's NOTE: It stinks that I drove 30 minutes each way to find this out)

5. They will take your application during this first appointment, but they will NOT do your fingerprints. (Yes, that's right... more fingerprints) After about 1 month, they will send you a letter stating your appointed time to get your fingerprints taken AT THEIR LOCATION. After about another month of who-knows-what you should then receive your approval. This approval arrives in the mailbox on a form known as the I-71H.

6. The fee for submitting a I-600A needs to be a certified check. Personal checks are not allowed. (Another mistake I've made)

6. There are some debates as to whether you need to submit two (2) I-600A's if your adopting 2 unrelated children. What I can tell you is that we are prepared to submit 2... but we'll probablly screw something up. Stay tuned to how this shakes out.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Frustrated... but moving forward

Today was another step forward.... sort of... It turns out we were moving backwards before, so it wasn't too hard to start moving forward...

Anyway, we submitted our I-600A approximately 1 month ago and were told to wait about a month. We did. And today we called the Lincoln office because we have not heard a darned thing from them. As it turns out, we were supposed to send it to the Omaha office. (Which I couldn't even find when I went on the USCIS website... but that's another story. Additionally, we were told that we were supposed to submit a certified check or cashier's check, NOT a regular check.

Bottom line is that this last piece that we've been waiting on.... I did it all wrong. So we're going into the Omaha office in person tomorrow (no more mailing stuff) and we're getting this done right.

The lousy part is that we have to start the waiting part all over again. Now that we're down to this last form, the waiting is more annoying. Oh well, it's all part of the experience right?

It's kinda like a pregnant woman complaining about her "tummy" getting bigger during her pregnancy. We'll simply try our best to embrace this whole thing as the adoption experience and not dwell on the "good" parts or the "bad" parts. It's all good.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Still learning Russian

Katie and I have continued working on our Russian.

So far we have: Я тебя люблю (Which is "I love you")

(Pronounced: eh tibieh loo bloo (Sort of, it's hard to phonetically spell it out)

We also have: ДОброе Утро! (Which is "Good Morning")

Pronounced: Do-bre Ootra (Again, I say it better than I phonetically sound it out)

But hear's the really cool part. Katie and I have written a cute little lullaby using these two phrases. We'll maybe it's not exactly a lullaby. (seeing as how it has the phrase Good Morning in it...) But you have to understand how our household works. Basically, we've turned every regular activity into a song. We've got a song for cleaning up the kids' rooms. A song for when we're swinging on the swings in the back yard. A song for when the kids go to bed. Heck! We've even got a song for when they go to the bathroom. So why not a song first thing in the morning when we wake them up?

We recorded the song tonight using Garage Band. (So we don't forget the tune by tomorrow). If anyone can tell me how to post a Garage Band file on this blog (or You Tube or whatever) I'd be happy to post our song for your enjoyment.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Fun Pix

Here's some fun pictures from today's activities. (Katie was out with friends)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Check another one off the list

The Police clearance letter is done. (Finally!) My faithful readers know that we've been messing around with this part for too long. Today we found out that they mailed their report directly to our agency (which is why we hadn't received it). I called our agency but they had already gone home for the day. Our agency's hours are only from 9:00 - 3:00 each day. 3:00 Eastern time is 2:00 Central Time, so it's pretty hard to get ahold of them anytime after lunch. Oh well. We'll call on Monday.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

First Act

I've got our first official act signed up for the "Voice of the Voiceless" benefit concert. (Saturday, June 2nd - Be there or be square)

The Chris Saub Trio!!!



Check it out!

www.chrissaub.com

Chris is a great musician and just an all around good guy. I'm very excited that he's our first official act to sign on. I've got a few other tenative "yes's" but they're not official, so I'll keep you in suspense.

More Pics:



Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Passed another test

I forgot to mention that last Saturday, we had some friends over who have 2 kids of their own. (and a 3rd on the way).

The two dads (myself and my friend) decided to take all four kids to Cabella's just for fun. That's right! For the 2nd weekend in a row I chose to go out with 4 kids. I must say that I'm getting good at this.

The funny part was that my buddy had some actual shopping to do (purchase a deer feeder) therefore, for a part of the time, I was left alone with ALL FOUR kids. That part was alittle more difficult. Especially when two of the kids decided to run off in different directions. It was at that point that I realized a lasso may be a good idea when we have 4 kids. (I suppose some lessons would be helpful too... and some chaps... just for fun... and a sheriff badge...)

Anyway, I continually learn about life with 4 kids:

1. You can't ever be in a hurry.

2. You must always have a sense of humor.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What will they think?

I did the majority of my growing up in the 80's. As most of you know, the tension between the US and Russia were at their peak during this decade. Every movie, every book, everything seemed as if were about the US vs. Russia in some way shape or form.

My question is this: How will Molly and Zac feel about this as they grow up?

What will they think:

When they see the 1980 rerun of the US Hockey team beating the Russian Hockey team in the Olympics. (Sometimes referred to as sports "greatest moment")

When Rocky beats Ivan in Rock IV?

When they watch "Spies Like Us"? - OK - that one probablly won't bother them. In fact, they'll probablly love it.... just like I do.

But you get my point. Will they identify stronger as a US citizen or will they gravitate to being born as a Russian?

It'll be their decision.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

New thought

I had a new thought tonight:

Although this may seem obvious, it occured to me that Molly and Zac might not know each other yet. Our agency allows for us to adopt 2 unrelated children at the same time (which is most likely what we'll be doing). So although they will grow up being siblings, they aren't so right now. Further, they may not know each other. It's possible that they are together right now in a orphanage somewhere, but barely take notice to one another. They are nothing more than passing strangers. They may be separated as boys and girls. They may be separated by age. They may simply have beds too far apart to make meaningful contact.

... or maybe, they're already best friends. Certainly, that is my prayer.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Quick update

Today, we received the report from the psychologist stating that we are "in good mental health and well able to be effective parents of adopted children".

The letter is seriously one sentence long. 3 hours of interviewing. Tons of stories and dialogue and the whole thing was summed up in one sentence. We are "in good mental health".

OK. Whatever. Still waiting on the I-600A as well as the infamous police report. Once we get these 2 things we'll be ready to rock. (Specifically, that means we'll be able to submit the official Dossier to Russia)

We'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Concert

I've been spending some time this week rounding up bands and acts for the Voice of the Voiceless concert. I've definately got some good contacts made. None of them have officially committed, so I won't announce any of them yet. But when they do, I'll start adding their links to my blog. Then you can surf around their website, my space, etc.

The concert will be a great time. An outdoor concert on the green. Lots of bands, lots of people, lots of tents where you can buy stuff and donate to the cause.

Very cool.

Saturday, June 2nd. Mark your calenders.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Wal-Mart

Big news from Arkansas! Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is planning on opening stores in Russia! Say what you want about Wal-Mart, this is exciting news... for many reasons.

1. It would be very cool if they had a Wal-Mart by the time we go there. It would make life a ton easier in terms of shopping, living, buying things for the new kids, forgetting things, etc.

2. It would make things logistically easier in terms of buying things for the orphanage.

3. It would be a huge boost for Russia as a nation. One thing I've realized when traveling abroad is the lack of big grocery stores. It's something that we take for granted here in the US. Think about it. It not just that poor nations don't have money, they also don't have a place to get stuff. Wal-Mart may have a reputation for being the "big-bad-company" but the reality is that they provide a way to buy lots of things for a low price. (No, I don't work at Wal-Mart)

We're psyched. Wal-Mart is a big part of our lives. Jake's first word was "Wal-Mart".... not really... But I still think it's cool.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Russians Letters

Did you know?

Russian letters are very weird. They sort of look like English, but not really. As it turns out, their alphabet is very similar to the Greek Alphabet. Which makes sense because a lot of the world's languages have Greek origins.

For example:

They have a goofy triangle looking letter that makes a "D" sound. For those of you that know, the Greek letter "Delta" looks like a triangle.

Also, the sign for Pi (Which looks like siamese twin "T"s) makes a P sound. Likewise, the Russian letter that sounds like P looks like Pi.

Ironically, the letter that looks like P makes an R sound. But again, in the Greek alphabet, the letter Rho is actually a P. (Of course, in Russian, they roll their R's.... kinda like Spanish..... but not really)

In conclusion:
A Triangle sounds like D (even though Triangle starts with the letter T)
Two TT's sounds like P
P sounds like R

Make sense? Any questions? Good, you now speak Russian.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

4 kids

Today, Katie and I are watching some friend's kids. They have a 4 year girl and a 1 year boy. Therefore, we're treating this as a "trial run" to see how we do with 4 kids. We didn't just sit around at home, but rather we went out to lunch at Burger King and followed up with a $200 shopping spree to Wal-Mart. (A true test on a Saturday afternoon). I will tell you that 4 kids is an adventure, and in 3 short hours I've learned a lot.

1. When you have 4 kids, perfectly good strangers will come up and try to help you. We had a person at Burger King give up their large table so that we wouldn't have to cram into the regular booth. At WalMart I had two people help us with finding a "super-sized" cart that has 3 kid seats instead of the traditional 1 seat. We still had to take 2 carts.

2. 2 kids' meals is more than enough for 4 kids at Burger King.

3. Only having two Meal-Deal Toys is a problem when you have 4 kids.

4. Even a minivan is too small when you're trying to buckle four car seats.

5. Going in through the back hatch of a minivan is an easier way to buckle the kids in the last row.

6. Winter-time stinks! Putting on coats, hats, and gloves for 4 kids takes forever.

In conclusion, it all went very well. We managed to bring home all 4 kids. Nobody broke any bones. Nobody required stitches. And Katie and I still like each other. I'd call it a success!

Friday, February 9, 2007

Bad news

I'm afraid that I've had my first MAJOR roadblock during this whole adoption process. Katie and I have told ourselves that we can overcome and endure anything that comes our way, but this might be too much.

It appears that my company has beefed up their internet access security and I can no longer blog at work. Come on! How am I supposed to any REAL work done? I've kinda got into a routine of blogging for five minutes in the morning and then starting my day. I guess now I'll have to blog at home in the evening. What a bummer.

I suppose it's only a matter of time before I can longer get on eBay and buy stuff either...

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Another Dream

Katie had the joy of having her first dream about the new kids. (I've already had one dream. I'm eagerly awaiting more. See previous post "Dream")

Apparently, in Katie's dream, we ended up with two boys. Their names were Vladimir and Pettit. Vladimir makes sense, but Pettit? What is Pettit? Is that even a name? (Dreams crack me up)

Before, Katie knew it, we were all at the Great Wolf Lodge (We just went there last week - and had a great time) See www.greatwolflodge.com

Suddenly, the dream turned scary because she was at a waterpark with four kids and each kid was taking turns disappearing. She was frantically scooping up one drowning kid after another only to lose another one and start the process all over again. It's that whole "Four kids, two arms" thing.

It is worthy to note that I was not in the dream. Hmmm.... should I be worried about this? I'm not even worthy of my wife's dreams? I'm here everyday and yet I'm not anywhere to be found in my wife's subconcious? Oh well. At least it's not the other way around.

So back the dream. Pettit had jet black hair and fair skin. His eyes were dark and round. Vladimir had sandy brown hair. His eyes looked more Asian.

Was this a predictive vision? Or can this whole thing be a result of drinking too much caffine yesterday? Only time will tell...

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Benefit Concert

As I have posted previously, Katie and I have a vision this to hold a concert this summer that will benefit orphans in some way, shape or form. Well, it's official!!!

The concert will be held Saturday June 2nd at Stonebridge Christian Church. We have tons of details to plan out, but our vision is becoming a reality.

Our plan is to have 5 or 6 bands be there. It will be Lalapalooza type event if you will. In between acts we're hoping to have different dynamic speakers share their "adoption" story. The whole thing will be outside in an open field part of the church yard. It should be very cool.

Stay tuned for further details as to how you may be able to help this awesome event.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Things we've been thinking about

These last few days, we've really been thinking a lot about what it will be like when we bring Molly and Zac home with us. Our homestudy agency gave us a workbook that really does a good job of getting us to think about things that we might otherwise not think of.

The big thing is thinking about it from the child's perspective. Try listening to a tape with nothing but foreign music in a foreign language. It's annoying after awhile. This is what our children will experience with us.

Imagine coming home to a house that smells funny and nothing is familiar. The bed will be different. It'll face the wrong way. The sheets won't feel right. The pillow will be too soft. Once again, that will be what our children will experience.

Imagine living in a world where you experience minimal interaction with adults. Now imagine a day where suddenly everything changes. You are now being picked up, sang to, cuddled, and passed around from person to person. And they all talk too loud... in a foreign language.... that's really annoying.

I think you get my point.

I don't really have any solutions. Other than, we'll have to remember all this when the child goes into a crying fit for what seems like "no good reason".

Friday, February 2, 2007

Moving Forward

Big Day! We were actually able to move forward on some things that I have been talking about here in my blog the last several weeks.

1. The official homestudy reports came in the mail Thursday afternoon.
2. Therefore, we were able to bundle up our I-600A (which was already filled out and waiting for the homestudy) and mail it to the Nebraska USCIS office.
3. Now we get to wait for that to come back approved and we'll be ready to send in our dossier.

Yea! This is fun. We're able to check off another line item and move forward.

Very cool.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

More Trivia

Did you know:

The first Russian ETF will soon be introduced to the US financial markets. What will soon be known as "The Market Vectors Russia Fund" will track the Deutsche Borse Russia Index.

Why do we care?

1. I'm a financial dude - that's my job.
2. I love ETF's. (Don't worry if you don't know what an ETF is. I'm not going to go into detail, because this is not a financial website and I don't want to get myself into trouble for posting something without getting approval from my compliance department.
3. This may be a fun investment to buy for the soon-to-be-adopted kids.
4. Believe it or not, the Russian economy has done very well since they blew up in 1998. Their economy is tied in with oil and this $2 and $3 dollar gas has helped them. (Unfortunately, very little of their population benefit from this - it's not like they all have 401(k)s and get to actively participate in their country's stock market).
5. I have nothing else to babble about today.