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More on the paper chase
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
As I mentioned yesterday we are currently finishing up the last few items of our dossier. We actually have just one last item that we need...our apostilled marriage certificate. This is a two part exercise. First we needed to request an official copy of our certificate from the State of Arizona (yes, good guess, that is where we were married). Then once we received that we need to resend it back to Arizona to get apostilled.

See, our government red tape is as stupid as the Russian government (and sometimes more so).

Well, it took over three weeks just to get our marriage certificates. On Monday we Fedex'd them back to another department there to get them apostilled. Prudently we gave them a return Fedex envelope so I'm hoping that means we'll get them back by Friday since they were delivered Tuesday morning. But worst case is next week.
posted by Steveg @ 9:17 AM   3 comments
Yet another NGO update
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
There are a few rumors about the current situation in the NGO registration process. Actually more like a bunch of rumors. Sifting through what other folks have posted on the various adoption forums is a bit tricky. First, you have to analyze if the poster is saying something that they actually heard from their agency, then you have to determine if their agency are being truthful or just dishing out some BS.

Our agency is often brutally honest and thus usually paints a picture that is not all that optimistic. However, as I have said before, I like that. I would much rather have a conservative and pessimistic estimate than some pie in the sky view.

What all this means to the current prognosis of when the next agency (and obviously I hope it's ours) will get their NGO, there appears to be the issue of vacations by some key folks at the Ministry of Justice in Russia (the folks who grant the NGO registrations).

Our agency's estimate (and again they have usually been on the more conservative side) is that they should know if the application they just recently submitted is approved or if they need to provide additional documents by the end of September. My own guesstimate is that they will get a passing grade and that it will happen within the next couple of weeks.

Regardless, we are finishing up our dossier collection. We have just one last thing we need and that is our marriage certificates being apostilled. After that, we'll send our entire dossier to our agency to be translated into Russian.
posted by Steveg @ 10:30 AM   3 comments
Learning the lingo
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Just a little update on how our goal of learning Russian is going. I think I had mentioned that we bought the Pimsleur's Russian. They're a bunch of CDs that you listen to and repeat the pronunciation of little phrases. Through these little sentences you start to pick up some usable vocabulary. I highly recommend the Pimsleur stuff although it is very expensive. Each section is like $150-$180 (Ebay sometimes has them for cheaper).

There's 30 lessons in each section with each lesson being about 30 minutes long. And there's three sections so there are 90 lessons in total which is a whopping 45 hours of listening and speaking Russian. But buying all three sections will set you back over $400. Ouch.

Anyway, we're both doing it but it's been hard to stick with it and for awhile there (a good month) we stopped altogether. But we're starting up again and will try to at least do two lessons a week. Each lesson is quite difficult and we both seem to have to listen to it several times before we feel comfortable. So I'm figuring if we do each lesson three times (once a day) that will keep us on a 2-a-week schedule.

We're only on lesson 5 right now but if we can adhere to the schedule we'll be able to be done with section I sometime in November and who knows, maybe we'll be able to test our Russian out at that time. But I suspect we won't be traveling to Russia until next calendar year (the end of January is my guess).
posted by Steveg @ 10:38 AM   1 comments
The 12 apostles...er...29 apostilles
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
So I went to Sacramento today. Due to my favorable work schedule (although I usually tell people, "retirement is actually a tough job") I just took off after my morning vanilla latte. Actually I was out of vanilla syrup so I used white chocolate syrup instead. Yep, it was yummy.

It's about 90 miles from our house to my destination: the California Secretary of State's office in Arnold's town. Sorry, that's actually Ahh-noold. I actually like him as governor, and no I'm NOT pro-Republican nor Democrat (both are actually pretty worthless), but I do like people who are independent, speak their minds, make their own choices (and not just their party's) and he is certainly all that. But I digress.

Fortunately at the time I left (a little after 10 am) there was very little traffic and my Bimmer got a chance to fly along doing over 90. Of course I really mean kilometers since I would never drive over the speed limit.
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Anyway, got there in an hour and I must say Sacramento is a very nice city (very clean, lots of trees, very nice). At the Notary Office of this huge building that houses the Secretary of State, the woman who helped me was terrific, very nice and efficient and got all 29 documents done in like 30 minutes. They had a big bulletin board that was filled with pictures of kids that were adopted internationally. Most of the apostille work is either banks or other stuff like that and adoptions. It was pretty obvious which part of the job the employees there enjoyed doing.

The total bill was a whopping $598. As I mentioned in an earlier post there's a bill (created by the woman who did most of our notaries) that would have lowered the cost of the apostille service for adoptions. But a jerk state assemblyman from Los Angeles is trying to kill it. He doesn't want to lose the money he rips off from parents (who most likely would be spending those dollars on their children). Yep, typical politician.

Again, here's his official email address (Email Fabian Nunez ) and I highly suggest writing to him (particularly if you live in California) and tell him he should support Senate Bill 799. Oh, I did I mention that EVERYONE in the committee that drafted the bill voted for it. Yep, both Democrats and Republicans but this moron is trying to kill it.

But I digress again (yea I know, hard to believe from me).

So here's a shot of what an apostille looks like. I'm sure (from what I know of the Russian government) that these fancy-schmancy gold seals are going to be a real crowd pleaser. To bad they don't have a red ribbon on them, that would really make the officials oooh and aaahhh.


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posted by Steveg @ 10:37 PM   3 comments
Hoping we're ready to NGO
We're still waiting for our agency to gain the current holy grail of being able to work in Russia...the infamous NGO.

As previously mentioned, the NGO is a new requirement for the adoption agencies working there (Russia likes to create new requirements for the adoption agencies every year it seems). This one is sort of a registration saying that they are an authorized Non Governmental Organization (what we call non profits).

Agencies must have this in order to go through the normal yearly ritual of getting accredited. Our agency's accreditation expired in May and has been working (as are every other agency) to get this NGO done so that their reaccreditation can be granted. Every adoption agency must have this to continue to operate in Russia. Some agencies who still have a valid accreditation are allowed to continue to work in Russia without the NGO. But they too must get it by October 19 or will have to stop operations in Russia.

I find our agency to be exactly what I want and expect when dealing with a person/company/organization that I employ. They are totally professional and businesslike. Some folks need to have an agency that has prayer sessions with them and that's fine, but that is certainly not us. Although, there are significant emotions during this entire process for all concerned, it is still a legal process and one in which significant money is spent for the various requirements of the adoption process.

I have total confidence in our agency as they traverse the intricate and often obtuse legislation that is International Adoption. And based on the current reports we are getting (that's another reason I really respect and like them, we get very detailed updates) my feeling is that our agency will most likely have the coveted NGO within the next month with the best case being by the end of August.
posted by Steveg @ 9:30 AM   1 comments
A special thanks
Monday, August 21, 2006
I just wanted to give a special thanks to our friend Lauren. She and her husband Marco are also currently in the process of adopting a child from Russia, although they are a little bit further along than we are. Anyway, she's a avid blogger (you can check out her cool adoption blog here) and is always supportive and helpful to us and other future adoptive parents.

When I was getting going on the painting of the nursery, she was giving us some great online sites with some cool Pooh stuff (light fixtures, etc.). Of course, I started the painting of the room way too early in this process but that's another story.

Anyway, she is such a good natured person (and is obviously going to be a great mom in fact I wish she was adopting me) she painting us a beautiful Winnie the Pooh picture. We just got it today and I just had to take a quick shot and show it off. Except for the painted walls and the crib there's not much in the room to look at so thankfully we now at least have some cool artwork.
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posted by Steveg @ 9:09 PM   2 comments
Next stop Sacramento
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Stef was jamming on our dossier this week and was able to get everything done. So yesterday we went to see an adoption notary. Actually just a notary but some folks are very nice and do notary services for people like us going through an adoption for a discounted rate or even for free. Which is what our person did. ?

She is actually an adoptive parent herself, we saw her beautiful daughter who is now six years old, of course being six she was wearing a Cinderella dress when we arrived (Stef, by the way, is going to be very impressed that I knew which princess dress she was wearing since she did not mention it was Cinderella).

Anyway, we got all our documents done for our dossier and I will be traveling up to Sacramento this week to get them apostilled. This is a special certification that is used for documents for international use under the terms of the 1961 Hague Convention. Very official and because the State of California is basically a pack of thieves, very expensive.

This notary that we went to see is very active in FRUA and had actually tried to enact a law that would lessen the price adoptive parents pay for the excessively high price of the apostille service in California. However, a state assemblyman, Fabian Nunez, killed it because he didn't want to lose out of the $500,000 the state gets from adoptive parents having to pay these fees.

If you live in California, I suggest writing or emailing him and tell him what a jerk he is. Or at least try to get it through his thick skull that rather than have the money go into the pockets of the state government, wouldn't it be better to have the money spent on the children.

Email Fabian Nunez
posted by Steveg @ 4:20 PM   5 comments
A place for their stuff
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
My very good friend Gillian who has two beautiful boys (in fact she just got back from Guatemala a few weeks ago with her second son) had given me the excellent advice when I first mention the overall plan of our nursery (aka Operation Pooh)...

Plan your toy-organization methodology into the room (I'm having to add bins and buckets now as they get older and it is taking time to find what I want and it spoils the "look" to add random solutions).  Also, plan on at least 1 bookcase, but make it adjustable so you can move the first shelf up so high that it is not an inviting step to use the bookcase as a ladder.  And this next one may be obvious, but they never point these things out in pictures of perfect nurseries...

Even if she wasn't one of the brightest, most organized, most put together women I know (but she is), this just plain makes sense and therefore I plan on following it to the letter. So I'm now looking into getting the closet set up to handle the plethora of toys and clothes that I am sure will soon follow the arrival of our little one.
posted by Steveg @ 2:22 PM   1 comments
The Operation Pooh Photoshoot
Monday, August 14, 2006
So here's one of the shots I took of the nursery for our dossier. Again, I know we are getting all this stuff ready WAY too early in the process. But as I mentioned before, doing this (including buying the crib and the bedding and all that) makes us to feel like we're helping the process along, especially during the times we have to wait for others to get stuff done.

And we're not really going overboard on spending money since things like the border we bought at, hate to admit this, Walmart. Although I would like others to shop there as much as possible since we do own shares in that wonderful company. ?

And that bedding set was a bargain at BabiesRUs for $60 compared to the other ones I've seen that go for a few hundred. Granted it didn't have dust ruffle (just sheet, quilt, crib bumper and that wall hanging currently attached to that awe-inspiring 80's style floor lamp). Toss in a rug and sheer curtains from Target and the whole room (furniture and paint included) was probably under $400. Which is just being smart since we may end up changing the entire room in a year if our little one decides he or she wants a different style room.

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I also took a couple other shots showing the room from another angle (which shows they have a closet in the room) and then another showing the room has it's own bathroom. And we took shots of our family room, kitchen, living room, etc. I probably over did it, but I did try to at least be not completely pretentious.
posted by Steveg @ 11:00 AM   5 comments
Watch out Heffalumps, Operation Pooh is almost done
Sunday, August 13, 2006
With the clouds completed we decided to forge ahead and put the border the up today. The whole room really came out well. It's probably way too early to get all this done but it has been good for us to do this. There's going to be a lot of waiting but every time we do something like buy the crib or paint the wall, or whatever, we just feel like we're getting one step closer to having our family.

But back to the nursery story (pardon the pun). We had a small problem when we first started because I just have a regular level that does has a laser light on it but it's not one of those fancy laser levels that can either be used with a tripod or hangs onto the wall and then projects out the line.

Instead we first tried to set the level we have on a ladder, get it all level and then project out the laser line. Well to make a long story short, we ended up just measuring out the height and using the level to mark off on the wall with a pencil. And viola, a nice straight level line to place the border on. Those special laser levels are the right tool for the job but they're fairly expensive for the good ones and I've never really had a job before this that really needed one (usually a simple level works fine for pictures, shelves, etc.). And obviously I was able to make due with my simple level for this project as well.

Anyway, with the lines all set up Stef took over and handled all the hard work of putting up the boarder. As with the cloud painting, I took on the key role of assistant supervisor. Of course the head supervisor, seen here taking a much needed break, was the real one in charge.

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So here's a quick shot of the clouds and the border. It's not my best photographic effort I'm afraid. And don't worry that light is just a hold over from the guest room that we're just temporarily using. We'll eventually get some cool kids style lighting. Notice the cool Mickey Mouse cloud? It actually looks more like a real cloud than it does in this photo.

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posted by Steveg @ 11:11 PM   2 comments
Operation Pooh get's an artistic hand
Saturday, August 12, 2006
This weekend our goal is to try to finish Operation Pooh. Although my skills as a wall painter are quite well known, I don't exactly have the artistic touch needed to do the ever complicated cloud formations. Fortunately, I convinced Stef to lend a hand and it turned out her cloud making abilities are top notch.

So she ended up doing all the clouds on the walls and the ceiling. It's hard to tell from this one picture, but when we looked at the clouds tonight once the paint was completely dry they looked totally cool.

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I'm actually pretty impressed with how the whole room is looking. I'll take some more shots tomorrow during the day so you can see the clouds better, including the very cool Mickey Mouse shaped cloud Stef did on the ceiling.

I found a very nice (and thankfully fairly inexpensive) Winnie the Pooh bedding set. As I mentioned before, we're going to have to take some snapshots of the baby room for the dossier and since we already have the crib, we decided to at least outfit it with some Pooh stuff.
posted by Steveg @ 9:09 PM   1 comments
Time to start looking for a parka
Friday, August 11, 2006
Disclaimer: As I mentioned before, one never knows who is reading ones blog. Not that I have anything to hide, but it just makes good sense to be discrete. As a result I may filter or delay some info that we already know, or even post something here that sounds pretty obscure of a hard fact that we may know. So friends and family may want to contact us directly about stuff I mention here.

That being said, here's the important news updates that occurred this past week.

Dossier

First, we got the instructions from our agency for what we need to collect for the dossier. And the Queen of Process (aka Stef) is currently working on getting the first part of the dossier done (the second part only comes when our agency, working with the Russian government, have identified a child that would be a ideal fit).

This first part (let's call it Dossier I) will contain things like copies of our passports, our marriage certificate, a copy of the home-study we successfully accomplished, even photos of our home and our neighborhood. We live in a very nice, large and expensive house but I'm trying to take some photos that don't look so ostentatious since I know the situation in Russia is quite different from the U.S. Even a middle class house here in the U.S. looks like the occupants are millionaires to the average Russian.

Stef is estimating that we will have our dossier completed (Dossier I that is) by the end of this month. Then it gets translated and sent to Russia.

Region

Second, there's a good possibility that we will be adopting a child from the Russian region known as the Omsk Oblast. The administrative center of this oblast (aka region) is the very large city of Omsk. Gee, that makes sense Mr. Geography, thanks. And Omsk is about the size of metropolitan areas like Memphis, TN or Austin, TX. Which is nice since my idea a camping trip or "roughin' it" as some say, is staying at the Westin.

Here's the Wikipedia info on the Omsk region

It's basically Southwest Siberia and as such can get a bit chilly. As in, the average January temperatures are around 0 degrees fahrenheit (yes, zero degrees average). Keep in mind that Stef grew up and lived in Phoenix until we moved to San Francisco. I grew up in Los Angeles, went to school in Phoenix and had not actually seen snow fall from the sky until a very cold winter in, yes believe it or not, Phoenix.

Actually we're both VERY happy that we get to go here (assuming we do). This region is very well known for having outstanding orphanages with extremely good and caring personnel (the caregivers at the orphanages) and so the children there are very well cared for. There are not a lot of agencies that work in this region, which suits me just fine, and ours has a great history working there helping to find many children their "forever families". Both Stef and I are really really really hoping we do get to go here and are getting pretty excited. I've already picked out the LL Bean parka I want. ?

NGO

Third on the list of updates is NGO status. We still must wait for our agency to get NGO registration thru the Russian government. However, things are looking pretty good right now. Two other adoption agencies have just recently gotten the coveted NGO status.

I am very hopeful that our agency will get theirs very very soon. I know I'm bias, but I feel our agency is incredibly competent, efficient, professional, and...well...businesslike. Which is exactly how both Stef and I want the relationship to be between us and the agency. They are our agents helping us through the adoption process. And our agents, in my opinion, are very very good.

Summary

Wow, how professional I sound with a heading like "summary".

Anyway, assuming our dossier is complete, translated and sent to Russia by the first week in September, and our agency gets their NGO registration done by that same time, we are hopeful that we may actually get a referral in the October/November timeframe. This is a pretty aggressive estimate, but if everything goes right we could be heading to Russia at the same time when Napoleon realized that invading that country was not exactly the greatest idea in the world.?
posted by Steveg @ 7:17 AM   3 comments
The coolest person in the world
Thursday, August 10, 2006
A side pontification here. I knew I wanted to marry Stef after our first date. I know that sounds kinda cheesy, but it's acutally true.

Neither one of us are really morning people and our first "date" was a breakfast. It was at a cool place near the school we were both attending at the time (Arizona State University...Go Devils!!!) called Mae West, although I'm no longer sure it even exists. We talked about all the things two young college kids talk about on dates. But as we talked I could just tell that this woman was someone who was just different than anyone else I had met.

Just the things she said and how she felt about things were just so unique, so special that I could tell at that point that she was the greatest, the most complete, the most logical, caring, special person I had ever met.

As with all marriages that last forever, ours has had bumps in the road (mainly caused by me). But I am so thankful that she has been with me these past 16+ years (13+ as husband and wife) to help me live a nice life and enjoy all the things we experience on this very short ride called "life".

There is no doubt in my mind that she is going to be a great mother. And I actually envy our soon-to-be child that they get to have a mom like Stefanie. I still come from the era when men don't show all they're emotions, but thinking about Stefanie (as I do almost too often each day to count) makes me get pretty emotional sometimes. Like right now as I type this.
posted by Steveg @ 12:04 PM   3 comments
Still busy, but I see the light at the end of tunnel
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Well I'm busily working on getting my last final created (the one for the Statistics class) right now. That one is on Thursday night and is my last class. Stef and I will then finish the painting part of Operation Pooh this weekend. I would have started on it on Friday but I am so ticked off with that damn washing machine that I've decided to chuck it and just buy a new one.

Of course we research everything to death, and as a result I've been tied up doing some intensive web searching on which one to get. At this point, we're going to go with one of the new energy saving front loaders. Probably the LG model although I still am looking at the others. I'm a little gun-shy because that piece of junk Calypso was an over $1,000 machine and the ones I'm looking at now are also in that price range. And I certainly do not want to spend a grand for another lemon.

Anyway, I'll probably be updating the blog more a little later this week with some info we've gotten from our agency. But I'm going to be a bit obscure as to what I post since one never knows who reads these very open and very public pages of some very personal and very private information.
posted by Steveg @ 10:10 AM   0 comments
COLOR, COLOR EVERYWHERE!!!
Saturday, August 05, 2006
Well I've made a lot of progress on Operation Pooh. Friday I started the first coat of the lower walls and yesterday I did the upper walls and the ceiling. I still have the second coat to put on both, which I will do on Sunday.

The funny thing is that we chose this color scheme because, well we're both sort of conservative and most of the house is rather muted in terms of color, furniture and artwork. If I were to describe us I'd say we're more of the Monet and Degas people than Dali or Jackson Pollack. This "Classic Pooh" scheme is definitely more muted than some of the other options we were thinking about (a Nickelodeon's Dora the Explorer theme, Blues Clues theme, etc.)

Anyway, so I get most of the first coat done on the upper walls and ceiling while Stef was running to do a bunch of errands. She comes back and I say you need to walk up the stairs and just take a look at the room as your heading up. And her reaction is sort of an astonishment with a "Whoa" sound. Which quite frankly is my reaction too when I look into that room. It is quite colorful to be sure. I'm sure our child will love it and think it's pretty cool, but it does highlight our laid back style in that this room makes us take a second take on the color.

Here's two shots with just the lower walls done (the first coat of that)
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And here's the first coat of the upper walls and ceiling done
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posted by Steveg @ 12:40 PM   5 comments
Well...whirlpool happens
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Had a couple of other fixes I needed to get done this week so I've had to put Operation Pooh on hold. Unfortunately our washing machine is acting up and I had to have the control panel replaced on the outside spa. That darn washing machine really pisses me off. It's one of those Whirlpool Calypso machines that when we bought it four years ago was like $1,000!

Now you would think that paying that much for a washing machine with all the high tech features it has it would work perfectly right? Think again. The machine constantly gets things (lint, a SOCK) stuck in the sump (which filters the water and drains the entire system). I've had to take this thing apart and clean it out 3 or 4 times since we've owned it. Very poor design and will cause me to avoid Whirlpool products in the future.

Anyway, I digress. Tomorrow I expect to finish the second coat of the trim on Operation Pooh and then on Saturday start with the lower walls (the earth color as I'm calling it). By Sunday, the second coat will be on but I have my finals I have to give to the Accounting and Statistics classes I'm teaching next week. So I'll probably be working on those as well this weekend (as the paint dries).

But that means more free time so I expect the upper walls (sky color) to be done on Wednesday and Thursday next week, with the clouds being done the following weekend.
posted by Steveg @ 12:34 PM   0 comments
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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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