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Finally time to catch up
Friday, June 30, 2006
Been so busy with my teaching gig that I've been neglected the blog. There isn't a lot of stuff going on right now with our adoption since we are just waiting for the final write up of the home-study to be sent to our placement agency.

On a side note, I finally got around to posting some info regarding safeguarding photos you place online. There was a story of obviously a very disturbed woman who actually was stealing pictures of kids people were posting online and then re-posting them herself and claiming that they were her kids!

Can you say LUNATIC.?

Anyway, the best way to protect your photos online is to add a watermark to them or have them in a highly secured server with password protection, etc. The watermark solution is much easier and cheaper (and quite frankly, more secure). Here's the posting I did that explains some of the details on securing photos. I have links in there on a how-to article for adding watermarks in Photoshop and a cool (and cheap) program if you don't have Photoshop that adds watermarks.
posted by Steveg @ 2:35 PM   3 comments
The Importance of Being Earnest...er...Keeping a Positive Outlook
Sunday, June 25, 2006
The forums are great places to learn about adoption by hearing other's stories but it does appear that the slant on them is towards folks who are having major problems. I guess that's normal, I mean if everything is going fine you probably don't have anything to post about. Oh sure, some folks do post some good news which is nice to hear, but it's just a fact that the concept of forums is they're really a place for people to vent or ask for advice or seek support. And they do serve that purpose very well.

That being said, I think it's wise to find some people you know personally who are or have already done IA (international adoption). We're lucky in that we have two very close friends who just recently adopted. One couple returned home last November from Russia (C&T) with their very cute son C, while the other (G&K) just got back last week from Guatemala with their adorable son R. Both kids are just great and doing fantastic with no real problems, as in zero! Yes, there were the usually issues with the adoptions (some minor delays, blah blah blah), but the kids themselves are doing just fine. The only issues are just regular kid stuff. Stuff you would have with birth kids.

And that's my point. If you're going through the process, sometimes reading the forums is just like seeing one gloom and doom story after another. But having friends who have gone through it, you get a different slant. You hear the positive news and some nice stories of inspiration. And when I get too down reading the forums I just think of both our friends and just that seems to put a big smile on my face. And for those in the process who might get a little scared when reading the forums, just remember that the majority of adoptions do okay (if they didn't people wouldn't still be adopting). It is important to understand all the issues that may happen (think like the Boy Scouts and be prepared) but in my opinion, the odds are everything is probably going to work out just fine.
posted by Steveg @ 11:37 AM   6 comments
Darn it Russian is hard.
Friday, June 23, 2006
Oh my gosh (yes, I'm trying to cut down on my profanity in preparation for being a dad).

I almost forgot to mention a funny story about my learning Russian. So as I mentioned I'm teaching a couple of courses this summer at a local community college (been doing this off and on for about 7 years now).

Anyway, before class a group of the kids (of course these are college age students but I'm 42 so to me they're kids) are talking and I mention I'm learning Russian. And that we're going to be adopting a child from Russia. So this very nice young girl who sits in front gets all excited and then says something in Russian to me!!! I'm like, this is way cool, this kid is Russian (actually I think she's Ukrainian) I can see how my Russian is going.

So I say in Russian (basically the only things I've learned so far), "I understand a little Russian but not very well" and ask her how my pronunciation is. Thinking I'm doing pretty well because I think I sound like the examples on the CDs.

And she replies "Not bad, I've heard a lot worse."

Oh, great, thanks.

Her reply got a big laugh in class too. I'm definitely going to keep talking to her, though, and see if I can get my accent better.
posted by Steveg @ 4:37 PM   5 comments
NBC story on Russian adoption Sunday June 25th
I got this from Suzie's blog http://russianadoptiondva.blogspot.com/ looks to be a nice story. Make sure you Tivo it.

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posted by Steveg @ 3:56 PM   0 comments
Deal or No Deal?
Thursday, June 22, 2006
How much do I love Craigslist? A LOT! After all it's FREE!

For those who don't know, Craigslist is a free classifieds advertising website. It's more like your regular newspaper's classifieds but online.

And did I mention it's free?

It's not like eBay. So you write up an ad and state a price, of course you can always use the famous OBO (Or Best Offer). But folks don't bid on your stuff like eBay. Well, they can send you an offer for less than your posted price but you make the call whether to accept it or not.

The other cool thing is that the post gives you anonymity. They provide a special anonymous email that people respond to and that email then forwards to your email (the other person doesn't see your email address unless you contact them back). Which is nice because...

1) You don't get on junkmail lists.

and

2) You can sort of filter out the creepy sounding people.

The other big advantage over eBay, besides it being free (did I mention it was free?), is that it's all local. So you don't have to ship anything. There are Craigslists in almost every metropolitan area and the content is really what eBay use to be...

Regular people selling used stuff at great prices.

Now days eBay is like 99% companies who are trying to sell stuff at retail prices (or higher) or maybe once in a while they'll have something for small discount. I still do use eBay but only once in a blue moon. We've both bought and sold a bunch of stuff on Craigslist and find it far better. Oh, and did I mention it was free.

Anyway, in addition to the selling bookcases and other stuff so we can move the guest bed into the other bedroom (so we can start painting the nursery), we are also searching it every day to find baby furniture like a crib, changing table, etc. We just love finding deals.
posted by Steveg @ 3:41 PM   1 comments
At least I'm busy
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Sorry been a little slow on new postings this week. Although I officially retired a couple of years ago from my real job, I do from time to time do some part-time teaching at a local community college. It's so part-time that it's actually been a couple of years since I taught more than one class a semester (mainly due to budget cuts). But they're increasing their enrollment and had a couple of instructors cancel on them so they asked if I could pick up two classes this summer.

Class started yesterday so I've been busy setting up my lesson plans and getting all the busy work done like printing out the syllabus (actually that would be syllabi since it's plural--see I am college educated).

I'm teaching Managerial Accounting and Business Statistics. Ahhhh I am a numbers geek.

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But since we have to wait for the whole Russian NGO/accredidation thing to finalize itself (for more details read the Are We THERE Yet post below), at least this will keep me busy. We also need to put our dossier together but Stef (aka Project Management Queen) handles most of that. I just run around and go with the notaries to get stuff signed, head to Fedex to mail things out, you know...man's work (aka Gofer).
posted by Steveg @ 12:27 PM   1 comments
A Note on Notaries
Saturday, June 17, 2006
I went on Friday to pick up our forms that were done on our physicals. For California (and I know most of the other states require it as well) you have to get a full physical done (with blood work) for your home-study and then a form needs to be filled out by your doctor, which of course needs to be notarized. It's just to show that you are healthy enough to be a parent. I guess they're figuring it's probably not a good idea if you have a terminal disease and you've got a few months to live and you go ahead and try to adopt a child.

But this gets me to the topic of day: Notaries. So, practically everything we turn in (both to our government and Russia) needs to be notarized. And that can get darn expensive, because things like this doctor's form needs to be notarized at his office. So you end up getting a traveling notary who not only charges you for the notary service (which is usually $10 per signature) but then also charges you for the traveling costs. And with gas so expensive the traveling costs are steep.

There are a number of notaries that provide discount rates for adoptions. For those of you who are going to be adoptive parents, I've got a link below that gives some of them, but you should ask your notary if they have any special rates even if they're not on this list.

Notaries with Adoption Discounts

Anyway, the notary I used for just these documents did not have a discount, but that's okay because I'm just using him for this one. We live in the San Francisco Bay Area (which is a huge) so I'll probably be using traveling notaries who are closer to the respective person where I need to get the signature done.
posted by Steveg @ 11:46 PM   5 comments
Dead Men Tell No Tales....
Friday, June 16, 2006
Course in my early retirement I don't get all those cool benefits that I use to get working for some of the big high tech companies here in the Bay Area (I was at Apple, Sun, etc.). But Stef still does!!! and that means I get to tag along. WHOA YEA.

So just to make you all jealous, the last one was we got to go to a free screening PRIOR to the official release of Star Wars III Revenge of the Sith.

Go Obi Wan, Go Obi Wan.
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Anyway in a couple of weeks we get to go to another free advanced screening. This time it's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.

Go Jack Sparrow, Go Jack Sparrow.
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We both like Johnny Depp, although I suspect my wife likes him beyond the kick ass actor I think of him as. Should I be worrying that she keeps drooling when we talk about the movie? At least I get to drool over Keira Knightley.

I am sooooo stoked. If we do end up with a boy I may try to convince Stef to let me change the Winnie the Pooh theme to a Pirates of the Carribean theme. Yea, I guess that would be a bit scary for an 18 month old. Maybe I'll wait a bit.
posted by Steveg @ 2:33 PM   6 comments
Books and paint
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
I'm trying to come up with a good list of books I want to read since it's going to be a bit of a wait. I may end up posting on the FRUA forums to enlist opinions. We're already reading The Russian Adoption Handbook by John Maclean which is really good but it's a couple of years old and some of the stuff has changed (in terms of processes, etc.).

The other really good one is What Size Shoe Does She Wear? by Denise Hoppenhauer. It's more about how to prepare for the child in terms of clothing and what to bring on the trips to Russia. Which is really helpful since the children are in institutional care and don't get all the nutrition that we will be able to provide. So they tend to be on the smaller size of their age ranges. But what happens is that when they are brought back to the U.S. and start getting proper nutrition they grow like weeds, so I am told. So the clothes you first buy them rarely even get a chance to wear out. I know kids go through clothes pretty quickly, but this is like hyper speed growth.

I'm also posting a lot of stuff on Craigslist so I can clean out the one bedroom that we'll be moving the guest room to and then we can convert the old guest room into the nursery. If you're in the Bay Area and want some IKEA bookcases and other stuff for pretty cheap contact me.

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We've also agreed on a color scheme and theme for the room. We're going with sort of a traditional look and using Winnie the Pooh as the theme stuff. We're thinking it's great for a little boy or little girl. The bottom part of the walls are going to be this sort of pastel earth/green color (sorry I'm a guy and can't describe colors well). And the top of the walls and the ceiling are going to be a pastel sky blue with clouds painted here and there and then trim is a lighter pastel green.

Okay, so my description is probably not giving you the mental picture of what it really is going to be like. Anyway, here's the example from Disney. Hopefully my painting skills are up to making it look like this.

Disney Pooh Nursery
posted by Steveg @ 12:05 PM   6 comments
Might as well start organizing
Saturday, June 10, 2006
Over the next several weeks I'm going to try to get started on putting the nursery together. The first thing is just to decide on color the room should be. Stef and I went to Lowes and Home Depot and we literally grabbed every color swatch from the Disney and Nickelodeon collections. There's got to be about 70 different color swatches spread out all over the floor in the room right now. Since we're open to either gender, we'll need to keep the color scheme fairly neutral. No girly passionate pink or boyish boisterous blue for us.

The other thing I was going to start doing was trying to map out all the child proofing I need to do around the house. There's just a dizzyingly array of things that need to be taken care of. It's not just throwing a few outlet plugs around. I was doing some research in Consumer Reports to determine which types of cabinet/drawer locks, outlet plugs, etc. were rated the best. And they are definitely not all the same, some of the outlet plugs were actually considered choking hazards. Well, at least I have plenty of time to take care of all this.
posted by Steveg @ 10:23 PM   6 comments
There's No Place Like Home-Study
Thursday, June 08, 2006
We had our final visit from our social worker today. It went really really well. I know I keep saying this, but I just feel very comfortable talking with her. Oh and by the way, I haven't mentioned the home-study agency or our social worker by name because I haven't asked them about listed that stuff in my blog and I'm a big proponent on privacy rights. Okay so I'm also just being careful. But if anyone lives in the Bay Area in California and is looking at adoption and wants some recommendations, please feel free to contact me.

And now we return you to your regularly scheduled broadcast. Okay so like I was mentioning everything went quite well today. We have a couple of items left to give her before she can write up our home-study report but she basically gave us the thumps up which was a huge relief because I was really stressing out about it.

The main reason I was freaking so much is that I retired at the age of 39. Our friends and family know the history but for those of you who do not know us intimately, the story goes like this. I've never had much of a love of working in Corporate America. Although I had a pretty darn successful career working for some great high tech companies, I just didn't like all the office politics and felt that upper management in nearly all US corporations are far more interested in their own self interests than in the interests of the share holders (who are of course the actual owners of the company) much less the employees.

Both Stef and I are very big savers and, putting modesty aside, fairly good investors (which by the way is what I really enjoy doing). So we created a 10 year plan in which we saved as much as we could while investing wisely and low and behold I was able to retire at 39. Anyway, I was just a little worried because it is not common for the husband to be the stay-at-home parent. I think I'll still be worried about this, probably even more so, when we are before a judge in Russia.
posted by Steveg @ 6:41 PM   1 comments
Are we THERE yet?
Monday, June 05, 2006
Naturally every wannabe adoptive parent would like the process to happen overnight. But that ain't gonna happen. I've described the whole thing to many of our friends as a "hurry up and wait". Of course knowing it takes a while and dealing with the fact that it takes a while are two different things. To keep my spirits up, I think of a lyric from one of my favorite Sheryl Crow songs...

Everyday is a winding road,
I get a little bit closer.
Everyday is a faded sign,
I get a little bit closer to feeling fine.


We're running at top speed right now going through the home-study, and I believe it will be completed this month. After that, it's going to be a several month wait for some key paperwork to be accepted by the US government (basically it's approval to find an orphan to bring into the US). But hopefully this will happen in the July/August timeframe rather than September/October.

Regardless, the bigger wait is going to be what is known as the reaccreditation process for the agencies. Adoption agencies that work in Russia must be accredited by the Russian government. These are only valid for 1 year, so each agency must get reaccredited every year. And often the government (just like ours) changes the rules. Politicians like to keep busy.

This year Russia is requiring agencies to be registered as non profit organizations (which they all are anyway) with the Ministry of Justice (MOJ). They normally deal with the Ministry of Education for all their other requirements so this is a bit of an issue since they won't be working with the same officials they do on a day to day basis. An additional problem is that the MOJ did not quite have the process nailed down when they came out with the requirement. So basically everyone is scrambling around figuring out how it's going to be done.

As a result, our agency which was one of the first ones to be accredited last year (May, 2005) will have to slog thru these new requirements before they can be re accredited for this year. Of course all the agencies are in the same boat as their accreditations come up for renewal. And since our agency is pretty on the ball, we're hopeful they will again be one of the first to get it done. But that may not be until the fall of this year (my hope is August/September, but it could be as late as December).

So during this whole time (from now till whenever our agency gets reaccreditation) we will be working on a bunch of paperwork which is referred to as our dossier. The official timeline is that once all this is completed, our agency will then start working on matching the right child with us and us with the right child. And this too will take months. But as it's commonly said, it's not child shopping. We're in the process of matching up three human beings who are going to become a family. So if it takes a while it may be a bummer but it's a bummer we can live with.
posted by Steveg @ 1:40 PM   3 comments
Hangin' wit da Home-Study
Friday, June 02, 2006
Well we finished the 1 on 1 part of the home-study. Mine was on Wednesday while Stef's was yesterday. I really do like our social worker. She laughs at my jokes, so she's obviously highly intelligent. Seriously though, she really is very nice and easy to talk to. Next up is our final visit with her (which is next week) and will be at our home. Course we're not yet prepared for a child (i.e., baby-proofing, etc.). But I believe the main purpose of the requirement to see the house is to make sure we don't live in a slum or something. I guess I need to clean my office otherwise she just might think it is a slum.

Overall I think the home-study is going well. Although sometimes the questions she asks seems more like you're talking to a Freudian psychiatrist doing some bizarre psychoanalysis of your childhood. Fortunately, I haven't yet been asked, "if you were an animal, which animal would you be?" The correct answer of course is a platypus. But I'm sure you all knew that.
posted by Steveg @ 12:04 AM   5 comments
Я понимаю русский
Thursday, June 01, 2006
With all the time we've got before we actually travel to Russia (which believe me is going to be considerable), I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn Russian.

I did some research (I know what a surprise, me do research) and decided to get the Pimsleur program. It's all on CDs and you learn language the way everyone really does: verbally. There's three volumes and each one contains 30 lessons which are on 15 CDs (so all three sets are 45 CDs). Yep, this is some serious Rous-key (roll the "r" and that's approximately how Russian is pronounced in Russian). And let me tell you, they are pretty expensive. Each set costs about $180 on eBay.

I take the CDs and import them onto my iPod. It's great because on the iPod I can pause, rewind a bit if I want to go over part of the lesson again, whatever. Learning Russian is pretty hard but I definitely feel I'm getting better. The first lesson I had to go over like four times. With lesson two I could tell I was really getting it after just my second review.

Anyway, once we're in Russia I really wanted to be able to do more than just ask where's the bathroom. My ultimate goal is to be able to talk to the caregivers at the baby home and answer some of the questions I'll be asked by the judge in court. We will have a translator with us while there of course, but I think it will be cool to be able to speak as much as possible. I also think it will be well received by the Russians we meet.

So far I'm working on lesson three and can say things like "I understand a little Russian, but not very well". Which always cracks me up when I say it because I remember a funny scene in one of my favorite movies, Top Secret (from the guys that did movie Airplane, btw). The lead actor, Val Kilmer, is sitting with a girl in a restaurant in Germany and the waiter comes over and starts speaking German. Val Kilmer says, "I'm sorry I don't understand German" and the girl says, "I know a little German. He's sitting over there." And a German midget stands up and waves at them.

Oh and by the way, the title says "I understand Russian."
posted by Steveg @ 9:49 PM   1 comments
About Us

Contributors:

steveg

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Our Story:

I'm Steve and this is my wife Stefanie. This is our story, mostly seen through my eyes, of the journey to create our family by adopting a child from Russia.

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