Archive for July, 2009

Farmers' market goodies

Farmers' market goodies

Let’s start with something that makes me happy… fresh food I get at the local farmers’ markets every Saturday morning these days. What you see above are some of my wares from the weekend. The tomatoes are fabulous eaten with the basil from our basil plant, and fresh mozzarella. I don’t eat eggplant much, but I couldn’t resist that little purple and white guy up there… I mean, he has arms! With a little magic marker, he could turn into a character for a new Pixar film.

Yesterday was our social worker’s home visit and it went very well. We went over some issues, signed a lot of papers, she toured the house, and we discussed next steps. Basically, we are finished collecting papers for the most part, but we can’t quite party yet because there’s more to do. Here’s what’s left:

  • Finish and send Parenting Resource Plan to WACAP, along with fee.
  • Wait for our letter from immigration that says we can go in for fingerprinting.
  • Read over the home study draft once our social worker finishes it.
  • Get all of our dossier documents notarized (almost done!)
  • Wait for final home study and then take it, along with dossier documents to get certified by the county.
  • Then take all those documents to Annapolis and get them certified by the state of Maryland.
  • Get passport size photos done and take pictures of the house to send with the paperwork.
  • Send all the documents to WACAP. Wait for them to approve everything. (Hopefully no changes needed!)
  • Wait for immigration to send us their official letter allowing us to bring orphans into the country.
  • THEN we will.. at long last.. be on the waiting list for our children!

It’s our hope and goal to at least have all the documents send to WACAP by the end of August. I think it’s possible.

Yesterday, the crazy confusion with the document (mentioned below) was driving me crazy. I went back and forth with the Ethiopian program director in Seattle about why we needed to notarize and certify a document that is already certified by the highest level of all  — the U.S. Dept. of State.  It just didn’t make sense. We kept emailing back and forth and not getting anywhere. (Email is sooo not a helpful way to communicate sometimes!)

So I called the U.S. Dept. of State today and sure enough, we do not need to go through the local and state verification/certification process because it is already a certified document at the highest level.

I hate when I know more than the people who are supposed to know more. But, in fairness, this is probably not a document our program director sees very often. What frustrated me the most was the one-sentence answers I was getting that didn’t seem to show that my emails were being read very carefully. Argh!

But this process is bound to have frustrations and obstacles along the way… And we are on our way.


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Here’s a window into the madness that is adoption paperwork…

We’re trying to finish our dossier. I have a document called “Certification of Report of Birth.” Since I was born to an American while abroad, this is the paper that says I am a U.S. citizen.

I ordered a new copy of this document in January from the U.S. Department of State and it has a raised seal from the U.S. Department of State on it.

Now, you would think the U.S. Dept. of State could identify and authenticate its own document. But, no. That would cut out too many layers of bureaucracy. Instead, I have to photocopy this document, get that copy notarized, send it to the county office to verify the notary’s authenticity, and then send it to the Secretary of State in Maryland to certify that the county verified the notary correctly.

This is all so that I can send it back to the U.S. Department of State to prove that the document is authentic.

Is that insane or what??!

(Never mind that every document in our dossier has to go through this process — and it all costs money.)

I’ll tell you what, I’m throwing a big, fat party when all this paperwork is finally finished. You’ll have to BYOB though because the cash it ain’t flowing these days…

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On the Waterfront

Zoe & Renata, www.RenataPhotograhy.com

Zoe and Renata and Little Italy pizza

I need a break from serious posts and updates on paperwork so it’s time for something light…

Last night, near the harbor, my friend Renata and I watched On The Waterfront starring Marlon Brando, Karl Malden and Eva Marie Saint. (Brando didn’t age very well, but the young Brando was something else…)

At 6:00PM, Renata called. (I call her Renoodle sometimes and she’s great because she lets me.)  She wanted to know if I’d join her in Baltimore’s Little Italy for an outdoor film night. Being kid-less and all, I was able to say a BIG FAT YES to a spontaneous date.

I’m not sure why I’ve never made it to Little Italy’s summer film series. Maybe because there’s now outdoor movie nights in our own neighborhood, where you can sit on the slope of Federal Hill Park and watch a screen on the side of the Visionary Art Museum building.

Anyway… Little Italy’s is the oldest one, and I have to say it’s the coolest. Maybe because it’s so well established. Or because it’s so quintessential-old-Italian-neighborhood. They close a couple of streets, restaurants stay open, and everybody brings their chairs early and hangs out, drinking wine and whatever else they’ve brought. The fellow who owns the house from which the movies  are projected is turning 100 next month… He was there, sitting on a bench in front of his house as usual.

Movie night in Little Italy

Movie night in Little Italy

On the way, we passed the bocce ball court, which local Italian men of all shapes and sizes take very seriously.

We parked our chairs in a great spot and went to order our pizza, which was yummy. We gulped own the remainder of my chocolate chip cookie batch, chatted away, and settled in for the movie. I was impressed with how quiet the crowd was once the film started. The weather couldn’t have been better — in fact, literally, as the credits were coming up, it began to rain. We made it to the car just as the downpour arrived.

It was a blast. Renata — a lovely Croatian-Australian-American artist and photographer — is also one of my cherished girlfriends and it was great to catch up after so long. (If you need a photographer for any reason, check out Renata’s web site: http://www.renataphotography.com)

And even though it’s far away, I couldn’t help but already miss the kind of nights when I can run out for a spontaneous evening of fun like that… Thanks, Renoodle!!

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Dilemmas in adoption

Many people struggle with the idea of adopting children whose birth families are too poor to care for them.

This came up again recently on one of the Ethiopian adoption forums. Someone responded that it’s fair to say almost all Ethiopian adoptions are money-related, since money would help those who die of preventable diseases (or at least prolong their lives), and money would help a host of other hardships that cause families to be unable to care for their children.

International adoption is fraught with concerns like this. Do you pray for “true orphans” so as not to feel that the only reason you’re getting to parent is because of another set of parents’ lack of money? Ugh.

I’ve thought  about this a lot — and continue to think about it — and wanted to talk about it here.

The question can’t help but cross your mind: “Wouldn’t it be more loving and just to financially support a family so they don’t have to place their children for adoption?”

The problem is, it isn’t possible. For lots of reasons.

Just as I can’t personally support every inner city family here in our own country who is poor and struggling, I can’t directly help all the families in dire poverty in Ethiopia. Yes, I can give time and money to organizations and efforts that, over time, assist people and help a country to build and develop. And I must. But I can’t personally, directly eradicate the kind of poverty that drives families in developing nations to make adoption plans. I wish I could.

It’s also not simply about money. Families in developing nations are poor not simply for lack of cash, but lack of good and stable government, infrastructure, opportunities, education, sound development strategies, etc.

When I turn this around in my head, I keep ending up in the same place: This is not a perfect world.

In a perfect world, no one would lack the necessities or suffer things made worse by poverty like disease and famine and drought.  No one would feel the need to relinquish a child just to survive.

But while we spend time working to make things better, there are children in need of people who can care for them and give them a fighting chance and help them reach their potential. And it is my dream that many of these children will grow up to be the ones who lead us in building a more just and equitable world.

Life isn’t fair, and I think adoption is one of those gifts that fills the painful gaps.

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Where things are

We are less than a week away from our last meeting (for now) with our social worker, which will wrap up our home study. That means this weekend we’ll be cleaning — and painting the window sill that the health inspector made note of and our social worker will no doubt check up on.

There are also some things Brian and I need to discuss further before meeting with Susie — such as what medical problems we’re willing to accept in our future children, or whether we’re willing to expand our preferred age range.

I harbor a small concern that our social worker will think the room (currently Brian’s office) isn’t big enough for two kids. Of course, we may be in a new house by the time they come home. If not, we’ll get creative about how to make the space work — probably by getting custom-made beds and shelving made for the space.  There’s certainly plenty of room for two small people in there.

Still, when you’re being evaluated by a social worker, you feel a little self-conscious. And you have to not let it get to you that if you were pregnant, no one would be coming to inspect the room in which you’re going to put your child.

Then there’s still work to do on the dossier… I really want to finish that soon. I wanted to get on the waiting list in September, but an adoptive mom-to-be who’s a couple steps ahead of us said that immigration is back-logged here in Baltimore, which means we may not get our required paper back from them for months. Oh well… what can you do… you have to take it in stride. We expect this whole thing to be a long wait. I only fear that I’ll be so old when these kids come home that they’ll be pushing me around in one of those motorized chairs…

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Girlfriends are the best, and the lovely girls above are two of my very best.

Last night, the three of us gathered at a favorite local restaurants and did what  girlfriends do: talk, eat good food, laugh, try each others’ food, talk some more, drink wine, talk some more, complain about looking older, drink even more wine, get philosophical, and of course, finish with chocolate.

Irene arrived Sunday night from Rome where she’s been living an adventurous, busy life with a feral cat she rescued from starvation in a dirty Roman alley.

Lisa came in from the Ellicott City area, where she recently moved with her new husband to get all suburban on us.

I’ve known these women for a long time — Irene for 15 years, Lisa for 12 — and the three of us have had many adventures around the globe together. (Remember my story about getting stuck with heart palpitations in the Duomo in Florence?)

So last night we toasted recent milestones and tried to encourage each other and said goodbye with promises of prayer. It was just a reminder of how girlfriends are necessary for a healthy and meaningful life.

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Another big step

I just returned from dropping off a packet of paperwork to our social worker. She needs it to write up our home study before she makes a final visit to our home on July 28th.

I thought I’d feel a sense of relief handing all those papers over, but instead I feel slight anxiety… as if I’ve forgotten something. But I don’t think I have.

A reminder to anyone reading this who’s not familiar with the adoption process…

We are working with two agencies. One is our placement agency — WACAP — located in Seattle. This agency runs the Ethiopia program we are using and will refer our children to us. WACAP works with us to complete all the paperwork required by the Ethiopian government (and our federal government), which is called the dossier.

However, because WACAP doesn’t have a presence in Maryland, we’re using a second agency — Catholic Charities of Baltimore — to complete all the local and state requirements for adoption. That’s called the home study.

The home study and the dossier — along with a special document called the 171H — must land in WACAP’s lap before they can put us on the official waiting list.

So here’s what’s left for us to do:

– Prepare for our social worker’s visit (which requires one of our references to be here to be interviewed).

– Make final payment to home study agency (a big check!)

– Finish the Parenting Resource Plan (a detailed report required by WACAP that must be received at the same time as our home study).

– Apply for the 171H (a petition to US Immigration to bring an orphan into the United States).

– Get fingerprinting done (again!) for this application. (And write out another big check!)

– Finish dossier paperwork and send to WACAP.

– Wait for 171H from Immigration, send it to WACAP, and finally be officially waiting!

– More checks to be written, but we just won’t think about that right now…

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