Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Theo!....Home Study!

I introduce to you, Mr. Theodore Davis Horton, our newest nephew...

There is a boatload of long black hair under that cap (funny b/c his parents & brother have naturally, VERY light blonde hair).

And the home study story...
There will be a couple of big calls along the way, the biggest of course being the referral. The day your Ethiopian-based caseworker calls and says "are you near a computer"? (That's when the image of your referred child arrives in your inbox with all the medical records, followed by loud screams & cries of joy, followed by a state of losing your mind for a brief moment).

To back up a bit, the first big call is the initial one from the agency to conduct your phone interview. That's the one that gets the whole ball rolling. The one that confirms in your mind, "We are doing this and we are ready".

The big call in the middle is where we are today. Yes, TODAY. Our home study caseworker, Wendy, called me at work to confirm dates and times for our first home visit. Following that we will have more home visits and also interviews in their office. I'm glad she chose the NYC office as our home office. Sometimes it's misleading on paper when someone sees our NJ address. I appreciate that she took the time to see WHERE in NJ we are in relation to their available offices. We both work in the city, are there everyday and most likely on weekends too. So, thank you Wendy for making this step that much smoother.

Side note...There was an article in the NY Times a few months ago stating that Jersey City is on the way to becoming the 6th borough of Manhattan. That statement may have just increased our property value to exhilarating heights. End of side note.

Our to-do list has grown after doing more home study Googling, including but not limited to:

fire extinquisher
outlets covered
meds & chemicals away
floor plan w/ fire escape route
outside gate adjusted w/ secure locks
front door lock adjusted
smoke alarms in appropriate locations
carbon monoxide alarm
all batteries in working order
and forget about the cleaning & organizing list

off we go!

p.s. Did I mention that part of our interview process includes separate one-on-one interviews? Yes, it's very possible we will be asked the same questions individually with the hopes of giving similar answers. Oh boy.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Last Friday

Yes, we were the only crazies on the 6:55am train last Friday. Look at all those empty seats! We arrived at USCIS in Elizabeth, NJ with five minutes to spare and just as the long line outside began to move inside when the doors opened.

This joint is a well-oiled machine. Both of us gasped when seeing all the people ahead of us - only to be whisked through the line, handed a clipboard with instructions: go sit, sign this, return here, move there, check in over there, wait in the red chair area, take a number, move forward and exit out the gray doors. Oh no! but when can I go to the bathroom? I've had 3 cups of coffee and two waters and it's only 8:05am. Will I lose my place and have to start all over? Surely I'll be here for the duration of the morning. I started having flashbacks of Elaine in line at the Soup Nazi. I can't get booted out of here and risk the possibility of a Visa delay for our unknown child simply because my bladder couldn't withstand the wait in the red-chair area. Oh boy.

Fast forward 12 hours to midtown (west) Manhattan. We arrive for our long-awaited reservations at Queen of Sheba. Yum. I ordered chicken & Kai ordered beef (see below). It's served on injera (flat pancake-like bread) with all the side dishes along the edges and our entrees in the center, shared and eaten with fingers. A side of injera is served and used as your utensil. Injera is sometimes compared to the French crepe, but with a sour taste. This takes a minute to get used to, however the spices in the entrees and sides were absolutely amazing.

On a side note, if you've been following this blog you know who Haregewoin Teferra is because of a few mentions. On her very first trip to NYC, Ms Teferra arrived at Newark airport with no ride due to some simple miscommunication. She didn't speak English and had never been to the US. Thankfully, two Ethiopian-American girls noticed her and asked (in Amharic) if she needed assistance. Half an hour later the three of them were sitting at a table eating Ethiopian food at Queen of Sheba. Haregewoin worked the room by telling her story of her home in Africa, full of HIV positive orphans. She ended up raising a very handsome sum for the children and continued speaking at various locations around NYC.

This restaurant holds a lot of history in the NY-Ethiopian community and is sure to be revisited over and over again by the Gittens family.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Final Fingerprinting

Our final round of fingerprinting will occur tomorrow morning at 8am in Elizabeth, NJ. Oddly (and fortunately) we both received the same timeslot which is not always the norm. The purpose of this is the very beginning stages of receiving authorization from both governments (US & Ethiopia) to issue a visa for our infant to travel legally; from leaving Ethiopia to entering the United States.

So, the alarm is set for 5:30am so we can catch the train and arrive at the office of U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services on time for our final round. These appointments are scheduled by their office in Washington, DC. It's basically part two of the I-600A form we submitted last month.

We'll be so happy once this is completed b/c after this, we're just waiting on the call from our homestudy caseworker. We have 98% of the paperwork for that completed so we are in a really great spot right now. Each step now gets us closer to moving out of the Paperchase stage and into the Waiting stage.

In other good news...70 degrees is in the forecast for Saturday. YES!


A little off topic...

Summer is around the corner and that means...the best of the best futbol teams are on a US tour, working their magic to make soccer the phenomenon that it is everywhere except the US. And as they build this much needed momentum, Kai and I have been taking advantage of the fabulous ticket prices each season. It's such a great opportunity - one that is certainly not an option in the home countries of these teams.

Last summer we sat in the Argentina section at a match, 12th row from corner. We experienced the most energy I've ever seen at a stadium event. These fans traveled from Argentina to NYC in full gear to see their team - including costumes, body paint, horns, drums, flags, house sized banners. You name it, if it was blue & white and made noise - they brought it and it was amazing! It gave me a new perspective of the meaning of "fan".

This July we'll be seeing AC Milan v Chelsea - woohoo! These are two of Kai's favorite teams so I'm so excited for him. I'm a Barcelona fan, but one of the best ex-Barce is now on AC - so I'm a bit on the edge of my seat myself.
The best part is that we're headed to Baltimore for the match. We'll have all day Friday to stroll around, match in the pm and then head out the next morning to DC to spend the rest of the weekend with Kai's family. I love DC! Kai's family is amazing and we always have such a wonderful time. Whether you're a local or a tourist, there is a ridiculous amount of things to do in DC and it's such a beautiful city.

Okay, time to re-heat the ham. Tonight is the last night. yay.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ham Anyone?

We order our groceries through an online service, so when selecting our ham for Easter dinner it was a matter of clicking a box. There was no touch & feel business happening. And voila...a 15 lb ham arrived a few hours later. This was last weekend. The ham has been staring back at me everytime I open the refrigerator door as if, "so now what"?

So off to the internets I went, searching for a recipe and to inquire what one does with 15 lbs of pork when there are only two of us in the house. When Google doesn't suffice, call g-ma. Bingo. Her advice even included baked beans! After many cloves, pineapples, cherries and the almighty strength of the toothpick, a lovely dinner was served. mmmm....sooo good

Kai is the cook in the family (I'm the baker) but he was a bit under the weather and I decided it's about time I learn how to cook a proper ham. It all came quickly too as I was getting ready for the 8:30am church service when Kai emerged from the bedroom with nothing more than a whisper and a whole lotta sniffles. My casual attire went back on, along with an apron and cooking was in session. (Kai took a big dose of Tussin and returned to bed with a request for a 2pm wake up call).

The entire condo smelled like ham & baked beans by 2pm. Mission accomplished. Thank you Gram! xo

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Homestudy Ordered & Agency Lunch

I lost my voice and am taking this opportunity to post a much needed update.
It's impossible to speak to anyone on the phone. They just keep asking, "Why are you whispering?" Do they really think it's on purpose???

Maybe I should get a bell so Kai can hear me from his office in the back. I bet he would love that! He's actually running late tonight from his training. I bet he's out buying me a bell right now. I didn't realize how much I took the task of talking for granted.

Okay, back to the post...we have two very big bits of news.
You'll see in our timeline list on the side of this blog that our caseworker ordered our homestudy a week ago yesterday, 3/30. This means we have submitted all materials for review and the social worker will contact us w/in 30 days to schedule our first of three meetings.

Below are some of the materials we've gathered in preparation for our homestudy:
Medical reports-(Physicals including tests for HIV, Hep A, B and C, TB tests, hearing,vision)
Child abuse record clearance
Proof of addresses since 1981
Employment verification forms
First two pages of the past three years of federal income tax returns
Copy of bank statements
Marriage certificate
Birth certificates
Health insurance info (stating coverage & proof of child coverage inc. pre-existing illness)
Life insurance info
List of all debts/assets
Photos of home, yard, neighborhood
Photos of family
Letters of recommendation (thanks everyone!!!!)

Our agency, Gladney, was hosting a luncheon for families adopting through their Ethiopia program two weeks ago. The reason this is such big news is that a) we live in the NYC area and they are based in TX (the lunch was in NYC!) and b) Belay Tafesse was speaking.

Belay is THE guy. He is the in-country coordinator, handling the children and details for hundreds of families just like us. Our little guy is going to be in his hands when our time comes. Belay's work and dedication to the orphans in his home country is substantial to so many others' well-being, in addition to those he affects directly. Meeting him during one of his few getaways from Addis was a priviledge.

In addition to having the opportunity to meet Belay, we met with other reps from our agency, who are just amazing. We also met families in the NYC area who have adopted and brought their children home from Ethiopia. The children were beautiful! The parents were so full of energy and excited to share their stories and support with us. What a great community! We snagged the biz cards of some parents who live within blocks of us and have children who may very well be potential playmates. We are more than confident at this point that we are working with the right agency.
We were originally with a different agency when we started this process.
Note to potential APs...This is the biggest decision you'll ever make in your lives. Do your research and trust your gut.