Tuesday, November 30, 2010

We have our referral!

We got our referral last week with updated medical information on our little boy and a new(er) picture. This latest photo was taken in June of this year, and my, how our little man has grown! The chubby little cheeks and rounded face of the early baby/toddler years have changed into more of the face of a little boy. He has also gotten taller even though he is still on the smaller side for his age. Basically, there is only one word to describe him. Beautiful! And, I get to see this beautiful, little boy up close and in person in a few short days!

Rob and I are in a mad dash at the moment to finish up our to do list and to make sure that we have purchased all of the needed items for our trip. I have also been busy making preparations for our daughter while we are away such as talking with her teachers. Julia has been very excited about Rob and I traveling to meet her brother, but now the reality is setting in that while Rob and I are with little brother we will be away from her. She has begun telling me that she does not want me to go, and I have had to explain that little brother cannot come home soon unless Daddy and I make this trip. I have never been apart from Julia longer than 48 hours since she was born, so this will be a new experience for both of us. And, I know that I am going to miss her like crazy. We are taking our laptop and the cell phone, so hopefully we will be able to skype with our daughter while we are away and get in a short phone call or two.

Other items on my to do list include stopping the newspaper (I have already stopped the mail) and contacting the bank about our upcoming debit card usage in a foreign country. I don't want any of our purchases to be declined because the bank thinks the card usage is fraudulent. I also need to order some euros from our bank since we will be in Paris on a long layover during our trip.

Then there are the things that I need to take care of at our house before we leave. It is the Christmas season after all, and our house could use some decorating before we leave. Rob got our large tree up in our bonus room on Sunday, but Julia and I still have to decorate it. We also managed to get our smaller potted trees out on the porch along with our life size Santa and snowman. Eventually, we will also need to tackle the garland and stockings on the fireplace mantle. It will only be two weeks until Christmas when we return from our trip so I cannot imagine waiting until that time to get the house decorated. Besides, this will be one more thing for Julia and I to do together before Rob and I have to leave.

 Sofia at Christmas

Speaking of Christmas, I am very excited about seeing how Christmas is celebrated in Bulgaria. I often peruse the Bulgarian news articles on www.novinite.com, and last week they featured an article about how the Christmas lights in the capital city of Sofia will be lit on December 1st. The traditional Sofia Christmas tree, the 50-year-old pine near the Rila Hotel in downtown Sofia, will be lit by the mayor, and that will be preceded by an open concert of dance and song groups. The ceremony will also feature fireworks. I plan on taking lots of pictures of Bulgaria at Christmas time so that our son can have the photos to remember his homeland at this special time of the year.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What to pack?

We are just a few short weeks away from meeting our little boy for the first time ever. Of course, it is a moment that I have dreamed about for many months, but now, Rob and I must actually make some sort of preparation for our voyage across the ocean.

Our airline tickets have been purchased, VESTA is supposedly making our hotel arrangements, so now Rob and I begin the packing list and begin collecting all of the things that we will need for when we go to Bulgaria. Some great friends of ours who have been home two months from Bulgaria with their little girl have been so kind to let us pick their brains about the trip and ask a million questions. They have even given us some leva (Bulgarian currency) for our first night in Sophia, since we are arriving in Bulgaria on a Sunday afternoon and may not be able to exchange any of our money until Monday morning. They are also letting us borrow a travel guide, a phrase book and a converter/adapter for our trip. We can't thank them enough for their generosity and their friendship.

Another parent who has been to northern Bulgaria in the last year to get her daughter has also been giving me tips and ideas on things to bring with us when we go to the orphanage to visit our son such as bubbles, finger paints and balloons. She also suggested a package of baby wipes for keeping his little hands and face clean. These were all great suggestions that I had not thought about before her emails. I especially love the finger paints idea. What a great way to get some hand prints for his life book.

A very important item that I would like to get finished this weekend is the photo album that we are taking to our son. There will be pictures of me and Rob (aka Mommy and Daddy), his new big sister Julia, his grandparents, our house and his room in this album. Each of these photos will be labeled with our names in Bulgarian so that his caretaker can read the names to him after we have gone home. And, no I don't know how to write using the Cyrillic alphabet that is used in Bulgaria, but a parent of a little girl who takes karate with Julia does. He was born in Bulgaria...fifty miles from where our son is currently. Small world isn't it? Back to the photo album...while we are in country, Rob and I are planning on taking some more pictures of our son and of the three of us together. We will than have them developed while we are in country and add them to the photo album for our son.

I really wish that I could post his sweet picture on my blog today so that you can see his adorable face and big brown eyes. But, until we have passed court in Bulgaria and a new birth certificate has been issued with me and Rob listed as his parents that is not possible. However, someday in the not so distant future, when he is legally ours, I promise that this blog will be covered with photos of our handsome little guy!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What's your favorite amusement park ride?

One of my favorite movies from the 80s' is "Parenthood" starring Steve Martin and Mary Steenburgen as Gil and Karen Buckman, the parents of three children who are dealing with the pressure of daily life and then suddenly realize that baby number four is on the way. In one particular scene, Gil and Karen are discussing the children and how the new baby will affect their already hectic lives when Grandma walks in the room. Grandma then relates a story from her childhood days when she went to an amusement park. She tells how everyone wanted to ride the merry-go-round, but "it just goes around." Grandma then relates that she liked the roller coaster best because it went up and then down..up..down..up..down. Some people thought the roller coaster was scary, but Grandma found it exciting.

Today, I know what Grandma meant. I am on that roller coaster in some ways. Our tickets are booked, and we are still leaving for Bulgaria in a few weeks, which makes Rob and I very excited (think top of highest peak on the roller coaster). But, today we found out that we will not be able to get our grant money until our second trip to Bulgaria, which will probably take place in the spring of next year (think still at the peak but looking down).

What does all this mean? Basically, that we are still going to be short between $6,000 and $7,000 on the fee side, which will be due upon acceptance of our referral. However, I am not worried. I do not know at the moment how the money will come, but I do know that it will. God has provided for our family all through this journey, and I know that he will continue to do so. So what are we going to do in the mean time? Keep getting excited about seeing our little boy, keep praying and definitely enjoying the ride!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Here We Go Part II

Have I ever mentioned that part of my job as an editor is to do research? I have to do lots of verifying and checking of information on a daily basis so you can only imagine that this has a trickle down effect into my personal life. I am the type of person who researches items that I am going to purchase meticulously on the Internet. I read customer reviews and trade magazine articles when necessary before committing to purchase a big ticket item. Travel arrangements and plane tickets definitely fall into the research category.

Late yesterday afternoon, I finally found tickets flying to Bulgaria over the Thanksgiving holiday that were not going to financially break Rob and I. A good friend gave us a tip on flying out of a gateway city rather than flying directly from the closest airport to our home, which is not in a gateway city. However, something was holding me back from purchasing those tickets even though that I knew there were very few seats left on those flights and the price was likely to go up again the closer we got to our travel date. I needed another confirmation from Vesta that those dates were correct (back to the checking of info thing). The requested information came today with a twist.

Yes, we are still going to Bulgaria, but it will be a week later than originally indicated by Vesta. While many would look at this as a little discouraging since it would be delaying meeting our child for another week, I choose to look at this as a blessing. Rob and I will have more time to raise the needed money for the trip and to actually prepare for our trip. Also, did I mention that I just purchased our tickets online and the cost was almost half of what it was going to be if we had to fly out the week of Thanksgiving? It was indeed a blessing in disguise!

We were also notified today that our referral will be here before we travel. This news makes us very happy for several reasons. As I mentioned before, we will get updated information on our son with our referral prior to travel, including new photos. I am sure that he has grown a lot since the photos taken last year, which adorn the desktop of our home computer. With our referral should also come the release of our grant money...just in time to pay some of our remaining fees and help with the trip. God is good!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Here we go!

I was driving to my hair cut appointment at lunch on Friday, and our coordinator, Sheryl,  from our adoption agency called. Sheryl said that she had some news. Her tone of voice led me to believe that Bulgaria had questions or needed some more paperwork from me and Rob. I was steeling myself for this news when she said, "Are you sitting down?" I explained to her that I was sitting down, but I was sitting in my car as I was driving to an appointment. She then said, "You might want to pull over. Bulgaria has called and they want you to come in two weeks."

Yes, TWO WEEKS! Remember how I said that I think God has a since of humor in my last post? Maybe this is an example or maybe it is an example of how when you give things up to him and hand them over, then God takes the reigns and does what you think is impossible. I was finally coming to peace with the fact that we were probably not going to meet our son until after the new year. I had been praying about this daily and knew that there was a purpose in delaying our first meeting until after the new year, which might not be made known to me until a later time. Rob and I had begun researching the weather in Bulgaria for January, and we had even been to REI to look at snow boots and heavy duty winter coats.  But now, it appears we will spend the Thanksgiving holiday with our little boy!

I have so many things to do in the next 12 days so if you have any good travel tips, especially regarding Bulgaria, please send them my way. Luckily, we will not need the snow boots or the ski parka in November as we would have if we had traveled in January. The weather in Sofia today and for the next few weeks is amazingly like the weather in Tennessee during this time of year. The high today in Sofia is 61 degrees and the low is in the 40s....just like here. I am thinking that laying with a shirt, cardigan and jacket is the way to go that way you can add or subtract as needed.

I did buy our little boy a winter coat over the weekend to take with us as was suggested by some friends in Bulgaria. I plan on buying a few other items of clothing for him over the next week, in addition to the stuffed animal and other items that I have already bought him. We also have the customary gifts to buy for the the attorney in Bulgaria and other important people involved in the adoption. I plan on getting a very special one for our little boy's surrogate grandmother. I am very excited about the prospect of finally meeting her!

Amidst all the joy and excitement of planning our first trip, Rob and I do have a couple of concerns. Our referral did not come with our travel dates meaning in adoption terms that we did not get our official match with updated photos and medicals.  After speaking with friends who went on their first trip to Bulgaria without their referral, we have decided to continue on without it. Our agency believes that we will probably receive the referral shortly after returning from our first trip.

Our other concern is of course the finances. We are still in the process of raising money through our puzzle fundraiser, and Rob has been trying to pick up a new coding class to teach on the weekends, which he hopefully will start in December. We also received a grant very early on in the adoption process that can be used for our first trip if we are able to get the money released in the next two weeks. In order to get the grant, we need travel dates and our referral. We are praying that the foundation will go ahead and release the grant money since we have the travel dates and the referral is coming soon. Please pray that we will receive our grant money in time for our travel and that we will be able to raise the rest of the money needed for our trip.

I know that everything is going to work out for this trip. It's just the fixer/planner part of me that is having a hard time dealing with all of the unknowns. I keep thinking about something one of my good friends said to me last night at our church's annual chili supper...."Money is nothing to God." In other words, this will happen. God will make it happen.

That is the way it has been all along through this process. As I have said many times, He would not lead us this far to fail!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The cost

When you decide to adopt a child, so many things must be taken into consideration, including the cost. One question that I get asked a lot by people who are curious about our adoption is "Why does international adoption cost so much?" In a nutshell, international adoption, besides being a loving decision to bring another child into your family, is also a very complicated legal process. During the adoption process, the adoptive parents are working with a multitude of governmental and nongovernmental entities, including the adoption agency of their choice. Other entities involved include foreign governments, the US Department of State,  USCIS, the FBI and county and state offices. Criminal background checks are needed, in addition to medical and psychological evaluations of the adoptive parents. In other words, there are many people who spend a lot of time working to adequately prepare the legal procedures for the adoption process, and this preparation and times costs quite a bit of money.

People also want to know in real numbers what is the actual cost of our adoption going to be, so I am including in this post a brief explanation of our fees.

1. Our US Adoption Agency Fees                                                                          $7500 - $8200     
These fees include:
Formal Application-fee due with application
Home study-due at home study completion
Program fee/Administrative fee-due at home study completion
Post Adoption services-due date varies by branch

2.  Dossier & Post Adoption Reports Shipping Fee:                $200
Payable to Bethany Christian Services with dossier submission    
3.  Bulgaria Country Fee:                   8500 Euro ($12,077 USD)                                        
(Dollar amount varies according to current exchange rate) 

The Country Fee includes the following:
Review, translation, legalization, and submission of documents
Bulgarian Ministry of Justice and Court fees
Bulgarian Notary and Courier fees
Representation of the family to the MOJ, courts, municipal authorities, etc.
Child’s medical examination, medical tests, and consultations
Child’s passport, photo for passport, new birth certificate
Administrative and office expenses

4.  Bulgarian Travel Costs (two adults, two trips):            $8,200 – 12,200
            (this includes flights, hotel, etc.)

5.   Miscellaneous fees:                                                            $1,250 – 2,030
USCIS filing of orphan petition (I 800A)                                    $670
Plus fingerprinting ($80/person over 18 in the home)  $160
Dossier Preparation - in USA                                                 $100 - 400
US Embassy Bulgaria – Child’s Visa                                         $400/per child
Citizenship & Finalization (if IH-4 visa)                                 $400/per child (approx.)

And, of course, these fees do not include the cost of a notary, county certifications, apostilles, photo copies and several trips to FedEx. 

It all seems a little overwhelming doesn't it? It can seem that way when all you dwell on is the money, but this adoption isn't about the money. Yes, money is required to complete the legal procedures of the adoption process, but the adoption is not about money.  It's about a three-year old boy that needs a home, a family, a place to feel safe and loved. It's about a little seven-year old girl who has always wanted a little brother. It's about a mom who had a large whole in her heart waiting to be filled with  love for another child. It's about a couple that has been called to grow their family in the way that God sees fit.

God put adoption on our hearts a long time ago, even before our daughter was born. Rob and I talked about adoption so many times over the course of our first ten years of marriage. Our plan was to have two biological children and then the third child we would adopt. That was our plan, but it was not God's plan. He does have a sense of humor like that doesn't he? It's also funny how he began revealing his plan to me and how long it took me pay attention, but now our adoption gets most of my attention. And as far as the money goes, I believe that God will continue to provide.

In recent days, we have received several donations toward completing our fundraising puzzle, and we are applying for some more grants. Rob is also looking at taking another Saturday class for the next six months as well. In one way or another, God will provide.

Philippians 4:19
But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.