Monday, June 29, 2009

Traffic Jam on all Fronts

So this was us yesterday. We're in the silver car...the one with the radio blasting and three people snapping, clapping, singing and dancing in their seats to Prince.

A few months ago I called my brother to tell him Kai & I were going on a family vacation in late June. I then asked if we could borrow his car and his family. He was more than happy to oblige, stating "You want to take my son for the weekend? You can have anything I own." He's a wonderful father; just one who needs a break now & then.

So, that trip was this past weekend. Kai & I borrowed the car and the 3 yr old nephew and off we went - on a whirlwind tour of PA, covering 600+ miles in 48 hours. We had SOOO much fun!!! It would have been great to spend more time with family, but we're just happy to have been able to see grandfather (maternal), aunt & uncle and then later we were with my grandmother (paternal) at my dad's house. The next day we hit the sites along the NJ Turnpike as the rest of the 8 million New Yorkers made their way north after a weekend at the Jersey Shore.

On the adoption front: we're still waiting on the I-171H form. Kai gets home before me & texts me everyday as he checks the mail. I'm still waiting for the "it's HERE" text. Once that happens, we'll be soooo close to being on the wait list. Yes, we're still waiting to get on the wait list. That's our current real-life traffic jam.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

We have NJ & DC!!!

The final duo have arrived! We now have full authentication from all states on our original checklist. This is the home stretch before the wait. Only three more things pending...

1. In addition to the above, there are three docs included in the dossier that originate from the adoption agency (standard practice). This means you've got one more Secretary of State to include in your authentication process if your agency is out of state. Thankfully our agency (based in TX) will be submitting them on our behalf. Whew.

2. Prior to these docs being submitted, our caseworker has scheduled a conference call with us. The call is tomorrow afternoon for about 30 minutes to finalize all details of our adoption request & details, i.e. preferred age & sex, medical details, travel & referral info, etc.

3. Lastly, it's the document everyone in the adoption world waits on...the lovely 171-H letter, aka CIS approval. This will come directly to us from CIS (formerly INS) and be the final piece to this puzzle; arriving between 'anyday now' and two weeks.

At that point, we will be on the wait list.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

My First Blog Friend

What would we do without the world wide web? It's something the majority of the world couldn't function without today, yet was nonexistent 20 years ago (at the current capacity anyway).

I couldn't imagine going through the adoption process without access to the internet. The amount of research and knowledge we've gathered online is priceless. In addition, we've been able to follow other families going through the steps that we will soon face, which is so informative.

There are a handful of forums & groups that I follow on a daily basis, particularly the Gladney Yahoo group. The families are so supportive and since everyone is at a different stage, everyone has something to offer another member. It was through a recent question I posted that I met Heidi, my first blog friend!!! I recommend everyone having a blog friend.

So, our new blog friends don't live that far from us, have been through everything we have (and more), work in the city and will most likely become a part of our local Ethiopian adoption community of friends with potential playdates for the children.

I know some of our family & friends who follow our blog are just as overwhelmed with the current paperchase stage as we are, continually thinking...okay enough already...when does the call come for the baby???

Well, Heidi's family is much further along than ours and are very close to getting that call. So if you want to follow someone at the more exciting phase, follow along here as they await their referral call for siblings. So exciting!

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Fabulous Friday

All went according to plan at the Secretary of State this morning. I was able to run out before lunch which made a huge difference. If you live in NY and plan to do this yourself, you can be in & out within 20 minutes if you're able to avoid the high traffic of lunch hour. A friendly reminder...ALL DOCS MUST GO TO THE COUNTY CLERK PRIOR TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE.

This was our mistake last week and after seeing the many stunned faces in line today, we weren't the only ones who made this error. I really felt for them.

Upon entering the office, I was greeted by a very nice gentleman who was more than happy to fill me in on what I was to expect during my visit; advising me where to sign, where to stand and where to wait. As I approached Line 1 I began having flashbacks of the Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld and I had suddenly taken on the role of Elaine.

Apparently, I created two cover sheets which is completely unacceptable. Oh no. There's no time to worry as I am clearly told that what I have done is utterly ridiculous and it is now up to me to choose which cover sheet to attach to my 15 documents. I ask for advice which falls on deaf ears. The growing line of fellow potential victims are now listening to my cover sheet drama. I secretly feel their empathy. I opt for the cover sheet closest to the representative, thinking it's almost across the counter anyway. My decision is met with a *tsk*rolling eyes* and another *tsk*. I pay my fee and proceed quietly to an empty seat.

Fast forward 15 minutes and I am doing cartwheels in my head as I hear "TAAAMMAAAARAAAHHH" shouted through the waiting area. A thick file is handed to me under the glass window. I double check the file containing 15 seals from the Secretary of State. Yay. With a huge sense of accomplishment, I head for the elevator thinking, this was the most productive lunch hour ever.

And it doesn't end there. We received agency approval today! Kai had our certificate casually flopped beside the dish I through my keys in when I walk in the door. I noticed it immediately & squealed. What a great way to start the weekend! We're so excited for our next step and feel so fortunate right now.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What happens in Vegas...

We have a 2ND place folks! Yes, our authenticated marriage certificate arrived on my desk today with a big fat seal from the Secretary of State of Nevada. That leaves NJ, NY and DC.

To be honest, I'm pulling for DC. The reason you ask?....

NY: We've caught up on the mishap and all docs are now properly notarized & stamped by the NY County Clerk, meaning our folder is ready for the SOS.
I will be making an appearance at the Secretary of State tomorrow (during my lunch break) with very high hopes of leaving with all docs authenticated. (honestly, my plan is to stalk, beg & plead - not leaving until my little manila folder contains all stamps from necessary parties)

NJ: I think it's safe to say that NJ will do whatever NJ wants to do. End of story.

So, that leaves DC - who I can't imagine would leave us hanging. Do you know when you call their office a REAL person answers the phone? Yes, it's true. And the best part? They return your calls when they say they will! Unbelievable. The District of Columbia have put themselves on a very high pedestal in our eyes and I can't think of any scenario other than their docs arriving at my desk within a few days. I refuse to believe they will come in behind NJ in all this. (NJ btw will not only avoid your calls, but will ask you not to call them again when they DO answer. True story.)

Nevada wins my vote in the Happiest Letterhead category.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Go Pennsylvania!!!

official SOS seal as seen on our authenticated letter

One down. Four to go.

The Secretary of State of Pennsylvania is the first office to return one of our authenticated docs for our dossier. Yipppeeeeee!!! Now if the others follow suit, we will be in some serious business. Those pending are: NV, DC, NY & NJ.

Keep in mind the current NY situation though - renotarizing, followed by the County Clerk's office, followed by the Secretary of State.

In other fabulous news today...our home study is officially approved and our agency has forwarded it to CIS (US Citizen & Immigration Services) for their approval. While that is happening, we're hoping the other docs continue to flow in from the SOS offices because once we have the magical I-171H letter from CIS (their official approval), all our goods are off to Ethiopia.

We are in a good place right now.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A Decorated D-Day Veteran

My g-pa is in the background, next in line

As DDay memorials are taking place all over the world today, I wanted to point out one man who was among the dreadful front line - my grandfather, Jack Horton.

suggested reading: The Greatest Generation (Tom Brokaw)

Authenticating in NY - oops!

NY Supreme Court, 60 Centre St, NYC

To any NY'ers out there authenticating your dossier on your own, you may want to take note of this...

Alert #1: Your docs do NOT go directly to your Secretary of State. We found this out when our entire packet was returned to us last week. New York law requires your packet go through the NY County Clerk's office PRIOR to reaching the SOS.

So rather than wasting more mail-time, with packet in hand I hit the subway yesterday and headed downtown to the land of Law & Order. (If you're patient, you can wait while they do it). And I'm very glad I did this in person b/c another mystery was uncovered in the process.

Alert #2: New York consists of Queens (Queens) County, Kings (Brooklyn) County and New York (Manhattan) County. Well, even though all of our NY docs were notarized in Manhattan, they can't all be processed by the NY Cty Clerk's office. The reason is b/c a notary's stamp is valid where they LIVE, not work. The small type on a few of our notarys' stamps listed Kings Cty and Queens Cty, meaning they don't live in Manhattan. This nugget of info was not on our radar when notarizing our docs months ago. These docs can't be processed through the NY County Clerk's office.

Lesson learned. At this point, it's more time efficient for us to have the docs re-notarized by a notary living in Manhattan and return to the New York County Clerk's office, rather than schlepping off to find the offices in Queens & Brooklyn.

So once this is done, I will definitely be presenting our completed packet in person to the Secretary of State. We can't lose anymore time. I have already confirmed that the other states (NV, PA, DC, WV, NJ) currently reviewing our packets, do not require processing through their County Clerks' offices.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Operation Column Five: Check

Yes, that's right folks. Column five has been completed since we last spoke. What does that mean exactly?

It means that the secretary of state (SOS) in each state we had a document notarized, is about to receive their respective documents from us. They will then approve (aka authenticate) them as legit in their state by applying their SOS seal.

Column six is a big one too. As we get our authenticated docs returned from each state, we'll hold onto them until all are in hand. They will then be submitted to Gladney who will include our home study and final docs on their end. That ladies and gentleman is what compiles a dossier.

This dossier is then forwarded to Ethiopia for review. At that point, we are officially on The Wait List. That will be a very big day in the Horton/Gittens household. V.E.R.Y.

In other news, I took a personal day today to wait for a man to fix a pothole in front of our house and catch up on life in general. By 10:30am, I had returned from the nursery with cilantro, basil, five tomato plants, mint, oregano, a red pepper plant and a yellow pepper plant. Four of the tomato plants went in the backyard with the remaining goodies on the balcony. I'm trying to work my way up to grapes, blueberries and eggplant (maybe next season if this lot makes it).
The remaining part of my day will consist of an amazing project I'm working on, in part with Gladney. Months ago I read about an older girls orphanage in Ethiopia that fosters girls up to the standard age for orphans. The topic being, then what? What are these girls suppose to do then? They've had no parents, no life-skills/guidance, little (if any) education and now are so stunted in their preparation to handle the real world. Gladney has a Brighter Futures program which was started in order to assist these girls with said life skills.
I contacted the (amazing) woman in their NY office heading the humanitarian efforts, told her about my background & that I had a few ideas and would love the opportunity to meet with her.
A lot has happened since that meeting, which I'll post another time - all very exciting and positive stuff. So, I'm off to work on some necklace designs.
Now...where is this pothole man? And why do I assume he is a man? That is unusually and very politically incorrect of me.