Wednesday, March 25, 2009

FedEx Picked Up our Paperwork Today...

FedX waiting for Tam to bring out the files.

The word of the day is rhapsodic, as in "We are wildly rhapsodic knowing our epic life story now has a tracking number."

YES! It's out of our hands. *doing cartwheels in head* Do you know what this means? Let me fill you in...It means, that those five remaining line items at the bottom of our blog are about to be three little lines. *more cartwheels*

I humbly say, I am a talented multi-tasker which means our dossier (Paperchase Pt Deux) is also ready to be buttoned up. Like most adoptive parents, we've been working on the dossier from day one. There is such a rush when you begin this process. From the first day we selected our agency, I felt we crossed a milemarker. I love checking things off a list, don't you? It's especially satisfying when you're keeping the reality that you're on an 18 month journey (that you have very little control over) tucked far in the back of your mind. It makes every checkmark count. And today was a monumental checkmark in our journey.

A little side note of good fortune for Kai...due to our need to unearth every detail of every move, the District of Columbia is now in the process of correctly listing him as a "male" vs the "female" status he has held for the past 38 years.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Haregewoin Teferra 1946 (est.) - 2009

I just read the very sad news that Ms Teferra has passed away. This is the woman we mentioned very early on in our blog; the subject of There is No Me Without You. She was a wonderful force and someone we were very much looking forward to meeting when we travel to Ethiopia. Words can't explain how she and her work will be missed. Our hearts go out to the children in her home.

I pulled the below from Melissa Fay Greene's blog (the author of There is No Me Without You).

Dear Friends,

By now you may have learned the shocking news that Mrs. Haregewoin Teferra has died suddenly after a short illness. We don't know what caused her death; she felt sick for a couple of days, went to the doctor, came home without a diagnosis, felt sick again, laid down, and that was the end.

Soon I will post a blog containing beautiful, loving, compassionate messages pouring in in tribute.

Many of you kindly are asking what you could do in her memory.

Let me tell you what I will do, and each of you can follow your hearts.A few weeks ago, Worldwide Orphans--the New York-based organization that has provided pediatric care to Haregewoin's children for many years--assumed responsibility and custody of her 42 HIV-positive kids. To cover food, healthcare and medicine, education, clothing, and caregivers will cost an estimated $4600/year per child. I plan to do what I can to support these children; they are precious, bright, full of fun and hope. With continued state-of-the-art medical care and excellent nutrition and nurturing, they can have bright futures. They can grow up healthy, go to college, have careers.

If you'd like to join me in that campagin, online contributions can be made at
Checks may be sent to: WWO511 Valley StreetMaplewood, New Jersey 07040
Other HIV-negative children, many of them babies and toddlers, remain at Atetegeb, Haregewoin's foster home; their caregivers have stayed on; and the Atetegeb board is looking to their well-being. As soon as I know how help can be offered to these little ones, I will post that here.

Haregewoin lived with these children seven days a week, 24 hours a day, for ten years. She is irreplaceable. The youngest children, of course, have no idea what has just happened. Please let us work together to act as foster parents in absentia for them and to provide financial sustenance to the adults on the ground in Addis during this transitional time. Thank you in advance for any amount you can give.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

More Fingerprints & Updated Timelines

The name of this blog should just be "Kai & Tam get fingerprinted. The End."

I'm digging deep into my creative well to find something to write about to keep you interested and all I've got is more fingerprinting. Scanned this time; no messy ink. Fascinating, I know.

In other news...our agency has monthly conference calls which are fabulous. I must say that it doesn't matter what stage in the adoption process your family is currently in, I highly encourage all waiting families to participate in the various outlets available.
At first, I was the self-proclaimed Queen of Stalking. The reason is b/c when you read the forum posts from families who have now been waiting 8 months for a referral b/c their paperwork made it's long climb to the top of the judge's pile just as the rainy season was approaching (when courts close in Ethiopia), it makes you feel that getting fingerprinted for the umpteenth time doesn't deserve a mini-cooper sized rant in the world of adoption blogs & forums. But you know what? IT SO DOES! The reason is b/c there are other families going through this now too, feeling the same way you do. And all those other families at different stages are one gi-normous support group offering their knowledge, experience & encouraging words.
In our current stage, we're considered a "paper chase" family. Our next stage will be "waiting", followed by "referral" (that's when it gets G-O-O-D).

These monthly conference calls I mention are always at 4pm Central time so we normally miss them. However, they're uploaded to the web two days later and that's how Kai & I catch up on all the dirt. The most current dirt, which constantly changes, is the updated averages on wait times. This is the #1 asked question by friends & family.
I must stress these are all averages and nothing is ever concrete but here goes...

  • Wait time for REFERRAL (when your caseworker calls and asks "Are you near a computer?" (you then receive the picture(s) and medical/bio family info on your referred child): 6.5 months
  • Wait time to find out when your court date is: 1-3 months
  • Wait time to go to court (We don't go. We've signed power of attorney paperwork to in-country rep to stand in for us.): 12 weeks
Once you pass court, travel time to pick up your child is approximately two weeks following court approval. We are about two months from beginning the referral wait time.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Name

We chose a name long before we began our baby journey. It was on our honeymoon in Greece after returning to the same cafe daily; right after our morning sunbathing and before our afternoon siestas. Keep in mind, we had just trekked through Italy with a whirlwind of activities. By the time we reached Greece, it was time to completely veg.

view of Kai from my side of blanket (pre-earbuds)

We noticed a little cafe a short distance down the beach - IN the sand - from where we were laying out that first morning. Packing up our beach goodies & slinging our bag over our shoulder, still wet & sticky with lotion and sea water - we made our way to what would end up being our daily routine for the rest of our stay and the future name of our baby from Ethiopia.
The funny thing about this story is that we have never eaten at the same restaurant twice on ANY of our trips. This place was AMAZING. The perfect low-key-eat-in-your-bathing-suit-while-barefoot lunches were served while evening dinners offered an atmosphere of a much higher caliber, serving a variety of fresh seafood with a four star rating.

the front entrance (road side); yes, that's the Mediterranean in the back!

Niko's Place is run by an amazing woman who we quickly became friends with after our first meal. She is a single mother from the UK, who after going through a bitter divorce, packed up her little boy (Nick) and headed for the Mediterranean for as long as her savings would warrant. Once this depleted, she consulted with her son and asked "How would you like to live here?" Who is going to say 'no' to that??? So after waitressing for a few years to get back on her feet, this woman bought the restaurant and changed the name to Niko's Place Taverna, after her son.

On our last night in Greece, we of course went back for our final dinner. She had set up a beautiful candlelit table just for us out in front in the sand, with the incoming tide just brushing our table. (I'm still searching for this picture of the three of us to post) It was the sweetest and most welcoming thing to experience on the final night of our honeymoon. She was such a wonderful host! I think it was on the flight home that Kai & I decided that Niko was the perfect name. (Nico if it was a girl)

the view from our seaside table on final night

So here we are only months (many months to be exact) from putting a little face to this name. And now that a few more details are confirmed (a boy from Ethiopia), we know it will be spelled with a "k" and we also now have a middle name. His middle name will be the Amharic name his birthmother gives him. (I use future tense b/c he is not born yet)

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Gittens' family has FBI approval

That's right ladies & gentlemen, we have official FBI clearance. I received the letters at work yesterday and IM'd Kai immediately. What a flavorful baby/lifebook this is going to be! Not many kids have their parents' fingerprint cards stamped by the FBI in their books with a big red stamp stating "No Arrest Record".

In other news, it's Friday. Y.A.Y.
We're having a Jack-a-thon bonanza beginning this evening and running through early Sunday. Penquins, sea lions & polar bears are included in the fun with a picnic lunch in Central Park. 59 degrees tomorrow!

Okay, lunch break is over. I just did my numbers for the High Atlas water project I'm working on and things look great. I should be getting the merchandise early next week. My merch bags arrive today and the tags are already done. Happy Friday to all :)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I-600A Out the Door...

The dreaded I-600A is out of our hands (finally) and off to The Dept of Homeland Security.

This is the form that carries a whole lot of baggage and has quite a reputation. It's the one that is mentioned at the infancy stage of this process with a clear message: "Get it out NOW"

The I-600A is the "Application for the Advance Processing of the Orphan Petition". It is for a non-specified child and is filed with the CIS (Citizenship and Immigration Services). The governement looks at your I600A along with a long list of additional paperwork to identify you as qualified. This isn't a comment on your parenting skills, the I600A is more about your qualifications in the government's eyes. It is the process of being pre-qualified to adopt. The I600 form is the form to adopt a specific child, which will come later.

Each department has such detailed filing instructions. Note the envelope below. We had specific instructions to send the package via FedX (other carriers were not acceptable) with a notation on the outside envelope in red. (see below)

It is all in the details from the beginning. And if this takes us an extra few minutes at the end of a long day to sit down and read the fine print, we're all for it!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Booo Chase. Yay WaMu!

I've never been a fan of Chase bank and they have really solidified that opinion since coming into my world by taking over my beloved Washington Mutual. I could go on forever but I'll stick to what pertains to the adoption story.

On my lunch hour, I ran out to get a money order for one of our payments (personal checks are not widely accepted during the process). The Chase bank on 14th Street & 5th Avenue in Manhattan had ONE TELLER WORKING DURING LUNCH HOUR. For those of you not familiar with NYC, this is a major intersection. The line wrapped like one at Disneyworld. So I wait. and wait. Upon reaching the teller, she informed me only Chase customers can get money orders. WaMu customers are not yet considered customers. (keep in mind, I've already had the nice perks of WaMu taken away since Chase has taken over but apparently don't qualify for their services yet)

Okay, next...Kai pops into a WaMu branch near his office at lunch for them to notarize a letter on their letterhead that states we have accounts with them and are currently customers of their bank. No deal. They "can't" put anything on their letterhead or notarize such a letter since they are now a division of Chase. We call our agency stating we're having difficulty obtaining this letter. They've NEVER heard of such a thing. Thanks Chase!

Enter the lovely-always-putting-the-customer first-WaMu...

I went to our local WaMu branch last weekend to work on this bank letter again and plead for someone to assist in putting this on letterhead, etc. No problem - they did it within a matter of minutes. Their notary was not in on Saturday. There was no hesitation...the Branch Manager, Mr. Donald Meza, walked two blocks with me to H&R Block to sit and meet with the notary.

Thank you Mr. Meza!!!! This is how we've been treated from day one as WaMu customers. We will shed a big fat tear when Chase fully takes over this branch :(