Friday, March 28, 2008

First entry at very bottom

Hi, everyone. Just a reminder. If you're reading this blog for the first time, if you want to read the posts in order, starting with the oldest one, please scroll all the way down to the bottom (I think I've created enough posts now that you actually have to click on a tab that says "Older Posts" to get to the original posting). I noticed that my most recent post always appears first, which is fine for people who have checked in before, but for new readers, you're kinda like "huh"?

There's also a nice menu at the right with quick links to any of the postings, by title. My very first post is called "Step by Step."

Later, gators.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

You Are at the Window

Here's a song I wrote about our little one. It's kind of long, but my coughing's been keeping me up at night. I decided I'd write a song for our child and immediately started humming Mary Black's song, "Adam's at the Window" for some reason. I'm not sure if she's the original songwriter on this song, but she sang it on one of her albums. This one's for the kid, as yet unknown but already alive in our hearts.

You Are at the Window

Written by Kathleen, to the tune of “Adam’s at the Window” (written/sung by Mary Black, an awesome Irish folk singer)

[Verse 1]
You are at the window, waiting for an opening.
Every time the wind blows; it moves you ever closer on a wing.
Standing at a distance, you may not yet know this love I feel.
But take just one step forward; I know I can convince you I am real.
And while we both sit feeling lost, with silence all around,
Your voice is singing in my heart, “Together we are found.
Together we are found.”
And we will soon find our way. We will soon find our way.

[Verse 2]
You are at the window, wondering what it’s like to be inside.
I am waiting in here, trying hard to hang on for the ride.
I wonder what you look like, wishing I could hold you close to me.
But I know that we must wait before we come to get you ‘cross the sea.
And though it seems forever that we wait (im)patiently,
We know that someday soon, each other’s faces we will see.
Our faces we will see.
And we will make sweet your name. We will make sweet your name.

[Verse 3]
I wonder what your eyes see, in a land I don’t know much about?
I wonder what your ears hear—whispers, lullabies and songs and shouts?
I wonder what you’re doing, at this very minute of the day?
So listen now, my child, for there is so much more I have to say.
And as I try envisioning your perfect little face,
Your tiny lips, your fingertips, your innocent embrace.
Your innocent embrace.
And I will sing out your song. I will sing out your song.

[Verse 4]
Eyes that dance with longing, little ears, a tiny little mouth.
You must sometimes wonder: What’s all this “adoption” fuss about?
Well, I will tell you gently, all the days that you are on this Earth:
“This world became better the moment that you graced it with your birth.”
And when the clueless people say, you were our “second choice.”
I’ll tell them quick, you’re our “first pick.” I’ll be your loudest voice.
I’ll be your loudest voice.
And I will speak truth for you. I’ll speak truth for you.

[Verse 5]
You are at the window, waiting for us, patient little one.
And we are sitting in here, doing forms and twiddling our thumbs.
Though we don’t yet know you, are unsure exactly who you are…
We’ll be right here with you, in our darkness you’ve become our star.
And as the twilight falls and sunlight softly settles down,
We’ll say hello, for you we’ll know, although you’re not yet found.
Although you’re not yet found.
And you will shine through our time. You’ll shine through our time.

[Verse 6]
I will be your rooftop, I will keep you dry and safe and warm.
I will be your raincoat, protecting you from hurricanes and storms.
I will be your daylight, reminding you you’re God’s most blessed one.
And I will be your nightlight, in the darkness shining like the sun.
And while the rain taps rhythms on our rooftop far above,
We’ll send to you and lend to you a melody of love. A melody of love.
And we will sing you, our song. We’ll sing you, our song.

[Final verse]
Throwing wide the window, having watched it inch up every day.
Every time the wind blows, I’m reminded you’re not faraway.
Standing closer near me, you may now be feeling what I feel.
Wind, take this child to me, into arms so ready and so real.
And as we three dance wildly in the ever-shifting breeze,
Our arms entwined, our lives designed, we’ll be a family.
We’ll be a family
by choice and not so by chance. We’ll take up the dance.

You are at the window…

Truth vs. What They Tell You

Hi, guys. I just found out from my friend Meg, who has two adopted children from Korea, that her agency had told them that they'd "definitely" be getting a boy as their first child...and guess what? They got a girl!

Lesson learned: The truth might be different from what they are telling you.

Second lesson learned: We'd better stick to yellow and green.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Piles of Paper

Let's break down the word paperwork, shall we? (For purposes of this home study)

Paper + "work" = Kathleen and Jeff being buried in bureaucratic documents for the next couple weeks. Ugh.

But that's OK...considering the outcome! It'll all be worth it in the end. I'm told that all memory of this process melts away when your child is finally in your arms...we cannot WAIT for that day!

In the meantime, let's sweat the small stuff, shall we?

This home study dealio is unbelievable! The things we need to do include getting a health inspection and a fire inspection from the county; replacing our current fire extinguisher with a higher model (we have a "1A" and we need a "2A," whatever that means); getting certified copies of our driving record (each one of us) from the Motor Vehicle Administration (groan--how long will THAT take, considering their reputation?)--and having our employer sign it (what the heck?); getting a detailed physical and bloodwork from our physician; answering a bunch of essay questions about parenting, our marriage, etc.; getting letters verifying employment from our companies; getting three references (one apparently from a priest, minister, or community leader); getting fingerprinted from the state and from the federal government (bunch of steps in each one); taking a bunch of online courses (that cost $35 a pop); reading several books; taking two all-day adoption classes; and the list goes on. We'll move through this as fast as we can, but I have a feeling we won't be finished with this until something like June.

And those are only about one-quarter of the things we have to do. I'm serious. Much of this will involve--yes--even more "waiting," because much of this will be out of our control (e.g., we are at the mercy of whenever the fire inspector can come, whenever the health department can come, etc.).

Wish us luck as we embark upon this home study process! Adoptive parents, please share your thoughts and any tips on how you got through this phase of the process! Good grief!

But even with this enlightening if not somewhat overwhelming day, you still can't wipe the smile off my face. It's so exciting to be on this journey!

Peace and Happy Hump Day (well, it's ALMOST Wednesday, anyway),

And the Decision Is...


We did it, folks. We actually made this decision--finally.

It was tough, but after talking with Margie about domestic adoption vs. international adoption, it became so clear to us that Korea is the path for us, hands down. Some of the advantages we liked: They have the youngest babies (8-10 mos), provide one-on-one foster care (i.e., a foster mother who dotes only on your child), usually have pretty good medical information available, and have been doing adoptions the longest (40+ years) of any country. And unlike countries such as China, Korea does not require a "dossier" (which is basically a big packet of vital paperwork such as original, certified copies of birth certificates and marriage license, 3 years worth of tax returns, etc.).

I know what some of you must be thinking: Why not domestic adoption? The answer is pretty simple: Catholic Charities cannot give us an average or an estimate of any kind, regarding timeline. It just varies SO much, depending on things like (a) when you are selected by a birth mother (one couple has been waiting for 2+ years; another couple got picked in only 9 mos) and (b) if she doesn't change her mind before giving birth--and many do (even after having picked you).

The other reason is that the agency expects you to be doing a lot of "self-marketing" in domestic adoption (basically, e-mailing everyone you know and asking them to spread the word that you are seeking to adopt a child), which quite frankly, is not appealing to us at all. In our opinion, why sign up with an agency if we are expected to do a lot of the "marketing" ourselves? Time is a valuable commodity as is.

Don't get me wrong: This approach does work. I've spoken with some people who have done it this way, successfully. One friend adopted not one but two children within months of each other, only 6 or so months after "spreading the word" via an e-mail that made its way around the country, with various degrees of separation. She and her husband now have two beautiful children, both of whom they adopted within only 1 year of their e-mail. But I just don't think Jeff and I have it in us, to do things this way. It just doesn't feel right to us, and there are too many unknowns that make us uncomfortable.

So Korea it is!

The first time you adopt with Catholic Charities, apparently you are not allowed to specify a gender, which is fine with us. A child is a child, and we'll be happy with whoever we get. Apparently, in Korea these days, as Margie tells us, we WILL get a boy. So that's kind of exciting!

At least I can start doing a color palette for the kid's room, right? (wink)

Our Home Study Has Begun!

Well, everyone said the paperwork is overwhelming.
That it makes mortgage paperwork look like a piece of cake.
That you'll be "blown away" by the stacks of forms and "to-do lists."

Guess what? They were right.

So, after our first meeting today with our caseworker, Margie, you'd think I wouldn't have walked away feeling like I got hit over the head with a giant, painful anvil (as if having this blasted ear infection that won't go away isn't "anvil" enough!).

Am I happy that our "home study process" has officially begun? Of course! Was I prepared for the paperwork, even with the warnings of sage friends and experienced adoptive parents? No way! But I guess that's part of this whole journey, huh? Trying to keep a positive spin on things. Help me, please, people!

Yikes, I'm getting ahead of myself. Rewinding a little bit: We met Margie for the first time today at the Catholic Charities office in downtown Baltimore (after endless emails and a couple of phone conversations, it's good to put a face to the name!). She's SO nice--an adoptive mom to 6 adult kids, 4 from Korea and 2 from India. This preliminary meeting marked the official "beginning" of our home study process. Hooray!

I just finished my initial read-through of the pile of paperwork and forms we need to gather and prepare for Catholic Charities over the next couple of weeks. I'm trying very hard not to be surprised at the amount of work that goes into this whole home study deal. Trying to just continue taking it step by step, but I have a feeling it will be difficult.

Interested in knowing more about what's involved with this home study? Read my next blog. (I had to break this one up--blogger guidelines tell the writer to keep his or her blogs short, punchy, to the point. As usual, I continue to break all the rules.)

Later, gators.

Friday, March 21, 2008

This Is My "Pregnancy"

It's Friday (my favorite day of the week!), and the sun is shining outside my office window. It's still a bit cold but there's definitely spring (and hope!) in the air. Jeff and I are driving to PA for Easter weekend, so I'm really looking forward to a relaxing weekend with family and friends.

I was thinking today that, in a way, this adoption journey represents my "pregnancy." I know that it's different: It's not like I'm going through morning sickness or craving odd foods or getting nauseous when I see raw chicken (actually, I do get nauseous when I see raw chicken, but I always have, and it has nothing to do with pregnancy). But similar to those lucky women whose bellies are expanding by the day and who are anxiously waiting to meet their child, I too am waiting. In fact, my "pregnancy" will likely be much longer than the 9 months that most women must wait.

I just thought that this was an interesting perspective/comparison, and it makes me feel more connected to my friends/family who are, or have been, pregnant. Makes me feel more part of the "parent club" that I'm so anxious to join. Makes me feel like I can relate, in some way, to the pregnant women of the world.

I really like this blogging thing. Even if no one reads what I'm writing, it feels so good to be writing it.

On this very first day of day of spring, may this hopeful season make a bright and joyful entrance to your lives!

Peace out,

Thursday, March 20, 2008

"Choice" Versus "Last Resort"

Happy Thursday! Can't believe Easter is just a few days away. Where does the time go?

I was thinking today about what seems to be a common misperception about adoption, and one that makes me feel pretty sad and confused. So I thought I'd share it. Jeff and I view our decision to adopt as a conscious choice. We could have tried fertility again. We could have chosen to remain childless. We could have said, "What the heck. Let's just live our lives and see what happens; maybe we'll get pregnant on our own." I know some friends who are doing just that, and I admire them for making that decision.

For us, we very consciously, carefully chose adoption as our particular "path." What makes me sad is the misperception that it's a "last resort," our "final option," our "last straw." I don't feel that any child deserves that designation. Reminds me of those days at Dunmore Elementary Center, when I was always the last one picked for the Dodge Ball team (back when Dodge Ball was simply a cool game and not a violent, physically traumatic practice). That felt pretty lousy. I hope our child won't be viewed as our "last resort." I'm sure he/she won't, but I do still worry about that. See, I'm not yet a mom but already filled with worry/concern for my child. Guess I'll fit right in, huh?

Anyway, onto my point: Our decision to adopt was a joyful, amazingly informed, carefully-thought-about, delicious choice that we are proud to have made and are excited to be embarking upon. I cannot even express how excited I am that we are on this journey together, and that we are traveling it with all of you. You ARE the definition of "boundless support" to us. And we bounce that right back to you!

Hugs to you all on this very windy Thursday! (What's the weather like in your neck o' the woods? If you care to post a comment, do share!)


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Step By Step

Hello, everyone! Welcome to our blog!

This blog was created by me (Kathleen) in an effort to keep our friends and family updated on the status of our adoption process. But Jeff may write from time to time. Feel free to check back often. And we'd love to get your feedback/thoughts on our blog! Look for the button that allows you to do that (probably located near the bottom of this blog screen--this is my first time blogging, so bear with me).

This blog is a way for me to keep my sanity during a process that, although wonderful in its outcome, I've been told certainly has its share of frustrations, delays, and maddening moments. This is kind of my attempt to exert control over one tiny part of a process over which I ultimately have no control (but a process that will unite Jeff and me with our child--so one that is well worth the wait!).

So here's what's happened so far (see bold for Cliff Notes version):

We submitted our initial application to Catholic Charities of Baltimore in late January 2008 (there were so many good agencies recommended by our friends/neighbors who have adopted; it was hard to pick one!), and after having to get our doctors to fill in and fax back some forms (basically telling the agency that we'd be good parents--already, the bureacracy is at its finest!), our application was accepted in early March 2008. We're so excited and thrilled beyond belief!

Because there are so many steps to this process, and I get overwhelmed thinking too much about "the big picture," I am choosing to look ahead only one or two steps past wherever we currently are. We'll get there--one small step at a time. If there's anything I've learned from not being able to get pregnant and going through fertility treatments, it's the power of patience. I wear that hat slightly uncomfortably, as patience is definitely not one of my virtues. But my yoga is helping me with all of this.

So onto the next step: We were sent an outline/questionnaire, asking us to fill out the "dreaded autobiographies" (our caseworker Margie's terminology, not mine!). We were asked to not exceed 10 pages (single-spaced). Both Jeff's and my autobiographies were exactly 10 pages apiece! That's how many questions they asked us. They asked about our past, our upbringing, our parents/siblings, our experience with children, our relationship (courtship/marriage), why we decided to adopt, our job history, and the list goes on. Being a creative writer, I didn't find this exercise particularly insufferable. I actually had fun doing it! And it's nice to have a comprehensive chronicle of our lives, for our children, in the future. Jeff and I read one another's finalized autobiographies tonight. It was interesting to see what commonalities we had written, and also to see how our responses differed, too. Just shows our individual character traits! We just e-mailed our finalized autobiographies to Margie tonight. Man, it feels good to have gotten that done!

[Hey, I just realized that it's one hour until St. Paddy's Day! So maybe by sending our forms to Margie practically on St. Paddy's Day will bring us "the luck o' the Irish" in our adoption journey!]

The next step is having our first face-to-face meeting with Margie, our caseworker (probably sometime next week). After that, she has forms for us to take immediately to some state office down the street, where we'll be fingerprinted for the state of MD. Kill two birds with one stone--I'm loving Margie's way of thinking! Margie seems to know the ins and outs of the system, having worked for Catholic Charities for something like 20 years--and having about 5 or 6 adopted kids of her own (from Korea, I want to say--which, incidentally, is one of our top choices should we go the international route).

After that, I know we have to attend two consecutive Tuesdays (all day) of adoption classes. Not sure what that entails, but I guess we'll find out soon enough.

After that, there will be two home visits (which are just one part of the "home study"). What is a home study? Well, it's not just an assessment of one's physical home (a common myth) but more like a psychosocial profile/study of the couple overall (physical, psychological, emotional, etc.). I believe that we'll be paying the first of several large "chunks" of cash when the home study begins (it typically costs $1,500 to $2,000). We have secured all of the money we need to adopt, so we have alleviated that worry--which caused us a lot of anxiety for several months.

That's all for now. Kind of a long first blog post (but look who's doing the writing, folks).

Please check back often, and feel free to ask us anytime about our adoption. It is by no means a "taboo topic." In fact, we are happy to talk about it and are thrilled that you care!

One more thing: Thanks to all of you for being such wonderful, supportive friends and family during the past year and a half of hell. You showed us the true definition of friend: there for you during life's absolute lowest moments. Please continue thinking of and praying for us as we continue our exciting journey toward parenthood. We love you all, and we see you as an amazing blessing in our lives.

Peace out,
Kathleen & Jeff