Monday, March 31, 2008

Are they for REAL??!!??!!??


Ok, everyone, I have to apologize for the post overload today but I am sitting here stunned and cannot wait for our prayer chat to start in two hours to vent this! I am sitting here looking through the stuff Bill brought home from USCIS today when he filed the I-600A and see on the receipt form that confirms our filing the following:

"The estimated processing time for this application is (1) year. You may make a written inquiry if you have not received a decision or correspondence by March 31, 2009."
I beg your pardon??? One YEAR?!?!?! Seriously, guys, are they for real? Or is this maybe just one of those "worst case scenario disclaimer" things and not an actual estimated timeline? Maybe they put that because our home study was not submitted with the petition and they want to account for the time it's going to take to get that in and then process us after that? Seriously, I'm wracking my brain over here trying to figure out how accurate this one year thing is...any insight?


"From zero to sixty" in two hours flat...

It’s amazing how quickly things snap into action with this whole adoption process; today has been a VERY busy day!

At the time of the in-person filing of our I-600A, our fingerprinting appointment was scheduled for USCIS. When he got home, Bill called the marriage officer in the Bahamas so see if he has in fact pulled our marriage register and is getting it where it needs to be for apostilling. The marriage officer confirmed that he has done so (for the second time, actually, since he’d already done it once and it was misplaced somewhere by someone on Grand Bahama) and also mentioned to Bill that he remembers exactly who we are and recalls our wedding well– no small feat for a marriage officer in the Bahamas, if you ask me! – but I supposed given the hub-bub that surrounded our wedding it stands to reason that it may stick out in many people’s memories a little more than your run of the mill destination wedding…


Anyway, I had no more hung up the phone with Bill (who was giving me the run-down on the marriage certificate status) than I received a phone call from our social worker to schedule our home visit for the home study. How exciting! We set the appointment for next Tuesday as well, since I will already have the morning off from work and the kids are on Spring Break so I can have them home from camp with us in the morning and they won’t miss school. Win-win!


It's pretty amazing, really. For a couple of weeks it felt as though all we could do is wait, wait, wait, wait; now it feels like there’s a gazillion things to do and not nearly enough time to get it all done. It's a cycle - another of life's roller coasters, if you will. Whew! Guess it's time for another big breath and I’m diving back in. This paper-chasing thing is a LOT to do but I’m having quite a time of it!

Whew!

Our I-600A is officially filed with USCIS. I'm sure if you've been reading along I don't need to tell you that that is quite a relief! And, as an added bonus, we already have our appointment for fingerprinting and it's next week!!! That's crazy fast and I was really surprised that they assigned the date and time immediately, but they did. That's a big, fat, huge, ginormous checkmark on our list of things to accomplish, and an even bigger weight off our shoulders. So I'll say it again, whew!

In other news, we still have a bit of work to do for the home study in terms of questionnaires and papers and stuff, so I need to get another packet of information sent off to the social worker this week. We also need to get our physicals done. We just had VERY comprehensive insurance physicals a week or so ago so we are waiting for the lab reports from those tests to be sent to our doctor and I will check with the social worker and with our program director to see if we can use those results along with notes from our doctor for our required medical reports. Here's hoping we don't have to get ANOTHER needle stick! (I really dislike blood work; makes me woozy... but again, I digress...)

We did a quick tally over the weekend and determined that, since January 1, 2008, we have already paid out over $2100.00 in tiny bits for the adoption. Another great reason to hope we can use the labs from our insurance physicals with our medical reports. I don't know if insurance will pay for the testing or if it will be out of pocket but these "minor expenses" have a tendency to snowball. There's MUCH more to come, for sure, but I was actually very surprised at how quickly the little things are adding up...but at least we can see some progress!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cue the puppies and rainbows!!



Sugar plum fairies standing by!


Just wanted to pop in to let you all know that we received in our post office box this morning the certified and apostilled birth certificate from Connecticut we were waiting for. Now when we file our I600A on Monday morning we will only have to note that our homestudy will be forwarded when completed and we won't be rolling the dice on whether they would accept the form for filing without both birth certificates.

Thank you so much for all your prayers - they worked! They always do, when He's decided it's time. I hate it that I am such a worry-wort sometimes; I know in my heart that God's got this all under control for us...it's my overanalytical, "yeah but what-if" brain that sends me in a spiral sometimes. But enough of all that - today's for thanksgiving! I'm off to put the final touches on our packet for USCIS. Hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

Oh yeah! I got a response from Indiana today, too; seems they didn't particularly care for the nearly 20-year-old certified copy of my birth certificate I sent them, so they asked that I obtain a more recent certified copy before they apostille it. Fair enough. You know what, I didn't even bat an eye - you want it, you got it. I'll get on that this week. I'm just so thankful we got Bill's birth certificate back from CT in time to get the I600A filed that this little speed bump doesn't even affect my mood. The draw bridge has closed and we are again moving forward. The rest of the paperchase is important, yes, but an extra few days or weeks will not destroy our progress. Patience IS a virtue, you know...

Friday, March 28, 2008

How do you know your patience is being tested?

There are lots of ways, I'm sure of it. I'm going to give you just one example:


For starters, I need you to recall the marriage certificate conundrum. Now we know we have two options - the first being wait patiently for all involved to do their part (paying the $48.75 for return postage) and the second being send the certificate we have to the Bahamas and get it back quicker (paying the $48.75 plus another $37.00 = $85.75).


What's that you say? That's no big test? Maybe not, but then there's the THIRD option. I got home from work today to find a particularly intriguing email telling me that for $19.00 each way I can FLY TO NASSAU on Tuesday, hand deliver the certificate we have and get it apostilled, and come home with document in hand! (Yes, I'm serious. This airline does crazy stuff like this all the time. I once saw $1.00 fares to Jamaica! But I digress...) I mean, once you add in the taxes and fees and such it works out to actually be $94 for the airfare (Yes, I seriously checked it out.) but for that extra $8.25 I would get a day in the Bahamas. And, you wanna know something? I LOVE the Bahamas. And it's been a really really long time since I've been to the Bahamas. And I would be able to bring the apostilled document HOME with me and check another mark off my paperchase checklist!! Come on, now - how can you not scream "OPTION THREE! TAKE OPTION THREE!!"


But...I'm not going to the Bahamas. (Bummer.) Instead, I am acknowledging my need to be patient and crooking a smile at these little breaks in the monotony that allow me to get a little wacky with my wishful thinking.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

JENN-THE-“BRILLIANT”, International Dunce, the sequel…

What a title, but I guess I deserve it. Really. I mean, in all honesty, I am new to all this paper-chasing and should probably be less self-critical but I just seem to be making a bunch of silly mistakes along the way. And, lucky for you, poking fun at myself is about the only way I can think of right now to make me feel less of a big dumb-dumb-head! Especially since, unfortunately, some of these silly mistakes have ended up being pretty costly too. How so, you ask? Well, cue the blonde jokes, settle in and I’ll tell you all about it…



Example #1: For a bit of background, please refer back to this post regarding the personal check debacle with our request for the apostilled copy of our marriage license. So as I mentioned in that post, instead of paying ONE international express postage for the initial request, we ended up paying TWO just to get the request to the proper authority and paid for. To add insult to injury, I got the bill for that first shipment Monday (a whopping $48.75 for one sheet of paper and a useless personal check!!!) and I cringe when I think that the preaddressed/paid return envelope I sent was from that provider instead of the USPS, which only cost me $37.00 AND delivered it precisely the next day instead of four days later! Research, people, research! A little looking-into-it could’ve saved me about close to $25 already, which doesn’t sound like much but adds up fast…just keep reading, you’ll see what I mean.




Example #2: Three weeks after our little oopsy-daisy, we are still waiting on the apostilled copy of our marriage certificate to be returned because the nice lady in the Registrar General’s office in Nassau is waiting for the marriage officer in Freeport (totally different Bahamian island, by the way…in case you weren’t aware, the Bahamas is a fabulous place that is made up of something like 700 islands!) to send a certified copy of the marriage certificate to her to apostille and send back to me. Sounds reasonable enough and three weeks isn't really all that long, so I could be patiently waiting if I didn’t feel so stinkin’ foolish...You see, it occurs to me that I have in my possession what I believe to be a certified copy of the marriage certificate – original signatures, raised seal, and all! – but, since this was my very first request sent out for apostille and I (obviously) didn’t prepare myself very well for the process, I didn’t think I could send them the document I needed apostilled because I assumed they would have to apostille a document they had in hand, not one I sent in. So I didn’t send it with EITHER of the previously mentioned packages to the Bahamas. (And, yes, I do know what “they say” about assuming, thankyouverymuch.) Now I am stuck with the burning question of “Do I send another package to the Bahamas with my only copy of the certificate at an additional cost of $37.00, bringing the grand total of obtaining this one document to approximately $191.50 (ugh. That makes me ill just to type it.) or do I sit back and try to wait patiently for the marriage officer to do his thing, the Registrar General to do her thing, and the higher-priced international shipping company to do their thing to get the apostilled marriage certificate back to me all in due time?” *sigh* and it continues…




Example #3: We are, of course, still waiting on Bill’s birth certificate from CT and, when examined, we find there are many silly mistakes in this one scenario alone. One, I only requested the one copy, certified and apostilled, and decided we'd copy it ourselves as needed since everything else takes a photocopy. So-o-o-o, even though the certified copy was ready in like 24 hours we are still waiting for the Secretary of State to apostille the darn thing and send it back to us. Two, I only sent the requests and prepaid return envelopes priority mail instead of overnight (which actually worked out okay on the way up because they were mailed on Saturday at noon and delivered by 9:30a.m. the following Monday anyway) but now, as we are tick-tick-ticking our way to April 1 and the commencement of the Hague Convention, I need it back NOW and don’t know where it is or when it will get here. Three (and quite probably the worst of them all in proving my dumb-dumb-headedness), despite the fact that I KNEW this is needed to get the I600A filed (and later learned how critical it is that it's filed by 3/31/08), and I KNEW of the nuttiness of our mail I still addressed the priority mailer to our home address instead of our Post Office Box. Hello? McFly??? Sometimes I really don’t think…But even still all is not lost here (she says with extraordinary thankfulness). I received a confirmation letter from Vital Records in CT that our request is "in process" and made an appointment with our local USCIS branch office for Monday to file the I600A in person so, if I have to, I will submit the letter from vital records with our other documentation and let them know that we’ll provide the actual birth certificate (and the completed home study) immediately upon receipt. In the meantime, I pray that will be good enough.




Ok, so that’s our update – going with the three strike rule tonight and signing off after my own personal three strikes. Hope you're enjoying following along with our misadventures in the paperchase. I will update you, hopefully with a post full of rainbows and puppies and sugar plum fairies, again really soon.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I *HEART* OUR AGENCY!!!

I have to admit I'm still stressing this birth certificate-CIS form thing a little bit, but over all I am feeling much better today. You guys and your support and prayers get a lot of credit for that one - Thank You!!! Then on top of that I got a call yesterday from the Program Director from our agency to reassure me and basically telling me not to freak out, that everything is going to be fine. We'd been emailing back and forth for a few days but apparently the tone of my most recent email had taken a turn for the frantic-frenzied-panic-stricken worse, and she decided that she probably ought to handle this one on the phone. Have I mentioned how wonderful she is?

See, this is what I am saying - this agency has the greatest people and has put me in touch with the greatest support network anyone could ask for. When I said early on that I expect this journey to be a roller coaster with a high emotional toll, I meant it. What I didn't anticipate is the amount of support that would be there to catch us when we lose our footing and our even-temperedness (which I seriously doubt is even a word!!!)

So, yes, I *heart* our agency and its employees, as well as all the people that this adoption process has brought into our lives so far (blogger friends and Yahoo sistas, that's you!), and I am looking so forward to all the new people it will bring to us in the future. Thanks for the prayers, I appreciate them greatly. (And if it's not to much to ask, I'd appreciate a few more...) xoxo

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

On the USPS and pre-emptive prayer

Last night in our prayer chat I prayed that God remind us that delays and obstacles we face on our road to adoption are just preparing His way for us, and that we remember that His promises never fail. Sounds good but not so easy to put in to practice. For example – what follows is the devolution of my mindset today in edited portions of emails with my sister:

Bright and early in the morning~

So I'm quite impressed with the USPS...spending $4.60 for a priority mailer on Saturday got our documents to Hartford, CT by 9:30~ish Monday morning and to Indianapolis by 12:30~ish Monday afternoon. WAY better than Fedex or DHL pricing for “overnight” service!!

Now if the Bahamas would just get my marriage certificate back to us…

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Still impressed a little later, but still not realizing the urgency of the April 1st cutoff~

I really was quite impressed [with USPS]. Now I’m hoping they’ll get his birth certificate back quick enough for us to get the 2 page “600” form filed with USCIS before 4/1 so we don’t have to do the 9 page “800” form…

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After receiving an email from our Agency regarding the USCIS forms~

Starting to panic just a bit here – look at the email I just got:

It is imperative that families who have not yet filed their I 600 A application with CIS do so immediately to avoid any problems when the Hague goes into effect on April 1, 2008. It’s also important that families be sure their I 171-H is maintained as current so as not to fall under the new regulations.

If you have not yet filed your I 600 A form with immigration, please do so immediately! If you have not done so before the April 1st deadline, it will greatly impact your adoption process and you may not be able to continue with Children’s Hope.

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My sister in her wisdom reminded me that perhaps the documentation will still come in quickly enough to file the 600A in time, since we DID send return postage priority mailers with all the requests… And, I mean, after all, they did get the document to CT by 9:30 yesterday morning. Vital Records just called Bill for his mother’s maiden name and said she has already processed the birth certificate and they are sending it to the Secretary of State today for apostilling. If it gets to them tomorrow, maybe they’ll get it back out to us by Thursday and we will get it back by Monday. Can’t hurt to pray! We need to get the I 600-A over-nighted to USCIS no later than next Thursday…

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So I'm still pretty impressed by the USPS and I guess my “random” and impromptu prayer last night was actually pre-emptive and I just need to rest in the faith that this has all been accounted for in His plan. But that won’t stop me from praying like crazy until I have the documents in hand! Join me?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Quick Status Update --

And another reason to love Indiana. As you know we have requested the apostilled copy of our marriage certificate from the Bahamas (at a price tag of over $100.00, including postage), we have also requested the apostilled copy of Bill's birth certificate from Connecticut (at a price tag of approximately $46.95, including postage [priority mail, $4.60 each way + $0.65 for delivery confirmation of the envelope in CT]), and the apostilled copy of my birth certificate from Hoosierland (at a price tag of $9.85 [priority mail, $4.60 each way + $0.65 for delivery confirmation of the envelope in IN]). Gotta love those Hoosiers! The going rate for apostille services seems to be around $20.00 per document whether here in the States or across the gulf stream in the Bahamas. Indiana, however, DOES NOT CHARGE for their apostille services; so, since I already had my certified birth certificate I only had to pay postage! What a sweet little surprise.

As we're plugging away over here, my new blogger-friend, Beth, and all of the Hollis' just got the news they've been waiting SO LONG for - head on over there and check out the newest additions to their family and congratulate them while you're at it!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

In case you were curious...

The USPS global express shipping kicks DHL's proverbial backside in international delivery times for the same price. So now we just have to wait for that nice lady in the Registrar General Department to get the document she needs sent from Freeport to Nassau, work her apostilling magic, and send it back on its way to us.

In news OTHER than that surrounding our marriage certificate, Bill and I are currently working on the packet of papers for our homestudy. Said packet includes a "Life Story Questionnaire" comprised of 55 essay questions about our respective lives. Boy it's a good thing I like to write! Hope you're all enjoying your weekend. xo

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A Bit of Background Music.

I visited another blog today that had music on it and thought "Wow, what a great idea!" So I figured out how to get the player that blogger had on her site and decided to add one to mine. The hard part, though, is trying to decide what song(s) to put on the player. I picked this one because...well, I just love it. My sister introduced it to me years and years and years ago and I have always loved it. It has always made me think of her; now it makes me think of her AND a few other things too, not the least of which is the great reassuring feeling the power of love brings. I have posted the lyrics for you to enjoy. See what it makes you think of; feel free to let me know what you think; and, if you think the music is too much of a distraction or it just plain BUGS you, let me know...it doesn't have to be permanent.

POWER OF TWO – The Indigo Girls
Words and Music: Emily Saliers

Now the parking lot is empty
Everyone's gone someplace
I pick you up and in the trunk I've packed
A cooler and a two-day suitcase
Cause there's a place we like to drive
Way out in the country
Five miles out of the city limit we're singing
And your hand's upon my knee

So we're okay, we're fine
Baby I'm here to stop your crying
Chase all the ghosts from your head
I'm stronger than the monster beneath your bed
Smarter than the tricks played on your heart
We'll look at them together then we'll take them apart
Adding up the total of a love that's true
Multiply life by the power of two

You know the things I'm afraid of
I'm not afraid to tell
And if we ever leave a legacy
It's that we loved each other well
Cause I've seen the shadows of so many people
Trying on the treasures of youth
But a road that's fancy and fast ends in a fatal crash
And I'm glad we got off to tell you the truth

Cause we're okay, we're fine
Baby I'm here to stop your crying
Chase all the ghosts from your head
I'm stronger than the monster beneath your bed
Smarter than the tricks played on your heart
We'll look at them together then we'll take them apart
Adding up the total of a love that's true
Multiply life by the power of two

Emily:All the shiny little trinkets of temptation (Amy: Make new friends but)
Something new instead of something old (Keep the old)
All you gotta do is scratch beneath the surface (But remember)
And it's fool's gold (What is gold)
Fool's gold (What is gold)
Fool's gold (What is gold)

Now we're talking bout a difficult thing
And your eyes are getting wet
I took us for better and I took us for worse
Now don't you ever forget
Now the steel bars between me and a promise
Suddenly bend with ease
And the closer I'm bound in love to you
The closer I am to free

So we're okay, we're fine
Baby I'm here to stop your crying
Chase all the ghosts from your head
I'm stronger than a monster beneath your bed
I'm smarter than the tricks played on your heart
We'll look at them together then we'll take them apart
Adding up the totals of a love that's true
Multiply life by the power of two...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Shipment to the Bahamas - TAKE 2

So amid the excitement of confirming that our request for the certified and apostilled copy of our marriage certificate had safely reached its destination in the Bahamas and the wondering how to mark the next step off our ever-growing to do list we were struck with yet another forehead-slapping "well, DUH!!!!" moment. See, in all the time it took to research the quickest and least expensive international shipping method, carefully word the request letter to be as clear and specific as possible to avoid any mistakes, and meticulously complete both the initial shipping envelopes, complete with customs information, AND the prepaid return envelope, it never occurred to Jenn-the-Brilliant (ahem... yours truly again) that the government of the Bahamas may not be interested in accepting a personal check for the fees associated with our request. Well, they weren't.


In my own defense, we used several personal checks to pay for our wedding in the Bahamas so it didn't even occur to me that I should, oh I don't know, maybe send a money order or something like that with our request. In HER defense, the lady I spoke to was very nice and when she called for additional information on our request she wasn't snippy or anything (like many governmental employees here have been known to be) when she slipped in a rather matter-of-fact "oh by the way...you may as well have sent a hand-drawn picture from your four year old that resembled this check instead of the check itself...we need a bank check or money order." No, not really, but she DID say they couldn't accept a personal check for payment and asked how quickly we could get a money order to her. I told her I'd get it to her as quickly as possible but it wouldn't likely land in her hot little hands until the beginning of next week, what with international shipping and trying to get the money order across that thing called the gulf stream. In her kindness she said she would go ahead and prepare our request now; we couldn't have it until we send a money order to replace the personal check, but at least it should be ready to go when she gets the money order. A simple act of kindness, for which I am really grateful.


So Bill went to the post office and shipped an international money order in the amount of $20.00 to the Bahamas to replace the personal check I had sent before. If you're interested, based just on my quick calculations, this marriage certificate is costing us approximately $131.00 (three international express shipping charges at $37.00 a piece, plus the $20.00 processing fee.) It's a really good thing that I'm the one making all the dumb moves in this adoption process so far. It's humbling, yes, and allows me to accept the tiny delays we are experiencing with MUCH more patience since I know I'm the big dummy who's causing them!






Monday, March 3, 2008

"[It's] LEAVING on a jet plane..."

Our request for the certified and apostilled copy of our marriage certificate needed for our dossier was picked up by DHL last week and is leaving Miami this morning for Nassau. And, as the song goes, "I don't know when [it'll] be it back again"; we were told to expect it to be "about two weeks" but I'm not sure what that translates to in real time. Still, I wanted to update you all on the latest tiny step in our journey.

This little step, like much of the rest of the process thus far, was made possible by the help of a complete stranger who happens to be a friend of a new friend of mine. Search after search after search had come up empty for me and then one day my friend said "Oh, by the way...I know someone who may be able to help" and the rest is history! (Thanks again, Beth!) Sing with me, folks: "I get by with a little help from my friends..." Listen, just be glad that this is a written blog and that I am not techno-savvy enough to add music - or worse, my own voice recordings - to it!! For some reason I'm stuck on 1967 today and bouncing between John Denver and the Beatles (and noting the songwriters here, not necessarily the artists whose cover of the tune was most popular!)

Anyway, that's it. Our request for the elusive marriage certificate is on its way and we're still trying to come up with a creative to-do list for the "quick peekers" out there who just want to see where we are...it'll come to me eventually. In the meantime, thanks for checking in on us.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

For those of you with a reader...

Please forgive the misleading "one bazillion new posts" notification you may receive. I've got nothing important to say today, but the picture of the poppies in my last post add such cheer I've decided to go back and add more illustrations to the blog...thanks for your patience.