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The week ahead
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
We'll be spending the next several days taking care of updating the dossier. As Stef said she got her corrected passport yesterday. And this morning our homestudy agency got my criminal background clearance from the fingerprints I got redone yesterday. And yes, shocking but true, they were clear.

The good news keeps pouring in. Although I'm like 99.99999% sure at some point here there is going to be another bump or hurdle that we will need to overcome. And that's fine. For those who may be just starting out in the process, you must remember that this is not an easy thing and that there will be sometimes a few, sometimes many roadblocks in your way. A good friend who adopted last year just sent me an email today that had this...

"I told myself that A. (still in orphanage at the time) had no idea what her parents-to-be are willing to do for her which didn't matter to us, whatever the price, the risk, the uncertainty, we just do it and make it happen. It's like we are compelled and determined because we know our child is waiting for us. We'll bend over backwards for our child, move mountains, whatever it takes so we can bring them home."

I think anyone who has been a part of the adoption process can relate. This is exactly what we do and how we feel. And when things are a little bumpy just persevere and work towards your goal.
posted by Steveg @ 11:42 AM   1 comments
2 Trips to San Francisco and 11 Hours Later...
Monday, July 30, 2007
I have my corrected passport in my hot little hands.

It was quite the adventure, leaving the house by 6:30am so I could get to the passport office to stand in line (outside I might add) for one hour before the office even opened. I was all prepared with the story of the adoption to get over any hurdles that may have popped up. But no, didn't have to beg, tell stories, or cry and was done with applying by 10:15. There was just one problem, you had to pick up the passport in person at 4:00 to be able to get same day service, so back to the city I went was in line again by 3:45 and had my passport by 5.

This experience reminded me of a little game I like to play - CSR ROULETTE - this game is especially effective for large companies with toll-free customer service numbers. Here's how CSR Roulette works. If you have a need to call a customer service 800 number with a problem and get a less than helpful customer service rep on the phone, hang up and call back. Odds are you'll get someone else that knows what they are talking about.

By using my CSR Roulette technique - my lovely husband was able to get a CSR that put him in contact with someone who said you could just show up to the passport agency office if you had an issue. The result of last week's CSR Roulette - I now have a passport in my hands with all information correct!!!
posted by yorkiemom @ 8:44 PM   3 comments
Money Belts
Sunday, July 29, 2007
I've tried out a couple of the suggestions for the whole "money belt" thing. I bought both a money belt (or really what looks like a very very very thin fanny pack) and a money ankle belt. But you really need to test out which one you're comfortable with (assuming you even feel you need one).

The ankle thing feels a bit odd for me while the traditional money belt I don't seem to notice. So I'm going to go with the belt. But again, you have to see which one works for you. The ankle is probably more convenient but it annoyed the heck out of me. But I'm pretty odd when it comes to socks (I hate over the calf men's socks). I didn't even bother to try the around the neck ones based on Jim's recommendation against them.

I also did not go for the more expensive silk model of money belts. I bought the one M- recommended (they make both a microfiber one about $12 and silk about $25). I'm not much of a silk fan so it was an easy choice for me. But someone more accustomed to wearing silk (notice, I didn't say "a woman") might find it more comfortable but for me microfiber will do.

The brand is Eagle Creek and I got it at the local REI. Now I just want to use it, as in asap.
posted by Steveg @ 12:12 PM   6 comments
More referral stuff & Passport Services secret decoder ring
Saturday, July 28, 2007
First of course some things about the referral.

He's a very beautiful baby boy, 14 months old, blond hair, blue eyes...a Russian movie star in the making (not that I'm biased or anything). We actually were asked last week by our agency if we would be comfortable switching regions. They felt there was going to be a better chance for us to get a referral faster if we moved from the Omsk region to Novosibirsk (which is actually right next to each other so it's not really that much of a move).

Of course the name of the game is to remain flexible so we said "yes". Plus we are currently redoing our dossier because of timing (remember most of the dossier is only valid for 1 year). I believe most of that is due to Russian law. The point of the whole dossier thing is that we must have a new dossier sent to Novosibirsk. But again, since we're in the process of redoing our anyway...no biggie. So we're now kicking that into high gear because we must have the dossier completed to be able to travel even though our old dossier is still valid. Again, different region so different rules.

Now some stuff about the Stef's passport, which naturally is a big part of the dossier since a number of forms need the passport number. She was taking a class for work this past week at like a different company so she didn't have normal internet or phone access. The passport which we had paid for extradited service (which cuts the processing time from about 3 months to just 3 weeks) arrives yesterday with her name spelled wrong. We had already known that they made a mistake because she got an email from them a week ago saying they were processing the passport (and in the email the name was wrong). So she called them on Monday and alerted them. But obviously they didn't even listen to her because they didn't fix it.

So it arrives and I'm feeling terrible because she was so concerned about it. Now, I already had a plan on how to fix it just in case. I was going to literally but refundable plane tickets and then have her bring those in and say "we're traveling in two weeks, here are the tickets". When you do that supposedly they will process the passport in record time and get it to you before you leave. And then I'd just return the tickets and get my money back.

But I call the passport office and of course give the whole "woe is me" and "we can't bring home our child" speech and "oh please help us" and the person I talked to was very nice, very helpful and got me connected to a "specialist" who also was nice and listened to my whole story (embellished of course) and then gave me instructions of what to do. Which is...She is heading to the local main office of the passport services (thankfully we live close enough to San Francisco to make it feasible) and will be having them do a "reprint" of the passport.

This very helpful person told us to have Stef there an hour before they open and just to tell the guards the whole story so that they will let her camp out there. Now, I got to this person again through this other nice customer service rep who told me how to get to the specialist. So I want to mention how I got there just in case anyone has some major problems and maybe this will save you a step or two. Now I think she just put me back into the main menu of the passport phone system (at least that's what I remember her saying) so this should work for you. At least give it a try if you need major help. From the main menu (the toll free number is 877-487-2778) press 3 and then wait and listen to the entire message. Do not press any number they suggest, do not pass go, do not collect $200. You should then be placed automatically into a phone queue for a specialist.
posted by Steveg @ 9:52 AM   3 comments
Just when you thought it was safe to answer the phone
Friday, July 27, 2007
So naturally just when I post a video about how long the wait is, just when I tell Stef I'm really having an issue with the current (almost daily) ups and downs of the referral wait, just when we say we have another long wait ahead of us...

BAMM!!! (in the words of Emeril) We got a referral.

We're going to be handling it the way we had planned and therefore will not be posting too much info about it until we at least have travel dates (and thus IA doctor review, etc.). Unfortunately, that may be awhile because our dossier is currently being updated and we have a few issues.

Stef's passport which she just renewed came back wrong. They spelled her name incorrectly even though she noted the error last week on an email they sent her about the fact that they are currently processing it and she contacted them back explaining the error. So first thing Monday she needs to head to the main office in San Francisco to have them do an emergency reprint of the passport.

So there are a few issues we need to work on. But we're very happy right now.
posted by Steveg @ 1:29 PM   12 comments
The journey continues
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
This is my 200th post on this blog. I was really shocked when I noticed a few days ago that I was up to that many posts. It has certainly been a much longer journey than we had imagined when we started.

But I've had to pleasure of getting to know a number of other adopting parents, both currently in the process and those home for many years. And it's been a blast documenting this whole thing and sharing both our joys and our frustrations.

Of course a 200th post is something special. My God, it's our bicentennial!!!

Okay, okay so a bicentennial is 200 years of something, but 200 blog post are a major milestone nonetheless. And so we've decided to show a small video recapping this journey so far.

We hope you enjoy it.

Steve & Stef

posted by Steveg @ 11:16 PM   13 comments
Random ramblings
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Of course right after I complain about the uncivil behavior of the FRUA forum a great thread is started which I found so valuable for adopting parents traveling to Russia that if you haven't yet traveled you really should take a look. And if you are already back, you may wish to contribute to it. It's the thread "What was your biggest surprise and yo..." It's within the "Russia" section on the forum.

Lots of great traveling tidbits. There were tons of posts and you could really make out the trends or consensus helping decide which advice you really need to follow. A lot of people talked about the concept of sightseeing. It was universal that sightseeing, if it is to be done, really has to happen on trip 1. Our friends who adopted from Samara took a couple of extra days and visited St. Petersburg which in addition to housing the Hermitage museum is regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. And heading there was something we really really wanted to do and then take a few days in Moscow for some more sightseeing.

However, Moscow to Samara is a mere 500 miles (about a trip from San Francisco to San Diego) while our region is almost three times that far. So we're going to lose a full day each way from Moscow to Omsk just due to travel. So now we're trying to decide how much and where we do all our "touristy" stuff. This week's Purchase of the Week is two great travel books (one on each city). Both are great but I think I like the way the Eyewitness Travel books are done.

Some good news on the required cash front. The manager at our local branch of the credit union knows all about the requirements about clean, good shape (not torn) and unmarked bills (evidentially most countries require those to avoid counterfeit bills). And he's collecting some for us and we should be able to get at least half of what we need. And the rest I can easily get from other banks around town. I do need to get a money belt though. Fortunately we don't have to carry a lot of cash, some folks I've heard have had to bring nearly $15,000!!! Thankfully we don't need even half that.

The cash is for paying our driver, translator, etc. and any money we need for food, and just traveling cash. Because Omsk is a very large city (well over 1 million population) we're pretty certain we'll be able to pay for our hotel with a credit card which is why our cash requirements are on the lower side.

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posted by Steveg @ 11:02 AM   3 comments
Well somebody up there must be doing something
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Interestingly enough I was looking back at some of the blog posts over the past couple of months. I do that every now and then just to see the flow and how our attitude or mindset has changed or remained the same. I had read the post I did right after the initial rumor came out that the first few agencies had heard that they had gotten all the ministries to sign off and were waiting the MOE to issue accreditations. As most may know we were very very fortunate and our agency was one of the that first group. Anyway the rumor was almost exactly a month ago (June 15th-18th).

So at that time I created some time estimates for when we might be hearing about a referral. Yea, those time estimates are one of my favorite things to do, I guess it's just the analyst in me. Well, I was a bit too excited by the news and thus made an overly optimistic estimate, so I restated my "Best Case" scenario the following day renaming the...

"This will happen if God comes down and places Her right hand on the back on the officials to help move them along Case."

And that estimate was...

  1. That Accreditations would be signed by end of June (check, it happen on June 27th)
  2. That the regions begin working with agencies mid July (check, that happen too)
  3. And that we'll see a referral the end of July/early August (well, that may happen too, I hope)

Well obviously God did come down and help the officials put the pedal to the metal.

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posted by Steveg @ 9:28 AM   1 comments
Getting ready to rock
Friday, July 20, 2007
Thankfully things seem to be really moving now and we're getting very hopeful that we'll be hearing some good news soon. Now, I'm pretty open on this blog as my...er...comments about the FRUA forum had indicated. However, there are a number of things that I've kept pretty close to the vest. For example, we don't mention our agency's name although as you can tell we're very happy with them and would be delighted to recommend them to anyone. But we prefer to discuss that 1 on 1 in email where we know who we're talking to and not here in a blog that anyone can stop by and read.

So as we get close to getting a referral I may be a bit cryptic when we get some news, or even downright unrevealing. For the regular readers I have no problem letting you know what's happening but you're not the only ones to view my blog. I do check who visits the blog and find some pretty unusual stuff. I use Statcounter.com and the tools are pretty good. I see which IP address visits the site, what country or state they're in, and for how long they viewed the blog. But you can't tell from just an IP address who the person is and you just don't know why their visiting the site.

You can also see how someone got to my blog if they used a search engine (like Google) and there are some pretty weird ones. As in they came to my adoption blog by searching for Russian brides in Omsk. Or Stef's favorite, someone searched for "40 year old men in diapers". Of course in my blog article about diapers I mentioned I was over 40 years old and it was going to be hard to learn how to change diapers. I suspect that the person who did that search was a bit disappointed when they landed on my site.

As a result I've started a private (invite only) blog for our family and close friends which I'll be posting to with more details. So don't feel slighted if we end up not posting some of the details here until after the fact. When it comes to the Internet, it's better to be safe than sorry.
posted by Steveg @ 11:21 AM   5 comments
Okay, it's getting real now
Thursday, July 19, 2007
So we've heard that referrals are now coming out from our region as well. There have been a bunch of people who have reported that other regions too are now sending out referrals. So it looks like the whole process throughout the various regions is rolling. This is both really great news but also a bit scary. I'm mean, this thing is getting real now. Damn, and just as I was getting accustom to the whole waiting thing.

Of course, we're really still in waiting mode. Because now we are waiting for our referral and there are a lot of factors that will impact when we might hear something. First, we don't know where we are on the list of waiting families not to mention that a child has to be matched up to us (which is a pretty cryptic process and no one really knows for sure how that whole thing is done). And then there's always the possibility that the key person from our region's MOE goes on vacation (next few months are the big vacation time in Russia), and from what I hear everything is put on hold till they get back.

But back to the scary part of this. Remember we were being conservative and estimating we wouldn't be hearing anything until September or October (or maybe even later). Now it's actually possible that we could possibly maybe perchance conceivably perhaps get a referral this month! And that means I need to get it into high gear. I just want to do a little legwork in advance to insure when we need to roll, we have some of the key things in place.

So I've contacted one of the two international adoption (IA) doctors we will be using just to ask how the whole consultation process works. Thankfully these folks have the whole process pretty well wired. You literally can contact them out-of-the-blue with all the pertinent medical records and usually within 48-72 hours they're providing you a consultation.

The other thing I need to do is contact our credit union and see if they will be able to provide the special cash requirements. We will need to pay the people helping us (driver, translator, etc.) in cash and the bills need to be almost brand new currency (or at least unmarked and unblemished). The rationale for this is that the banks and other currency exchange places in Russia are wary of counterfeit bills. And supposedly this is how they protect against that. Doesn't really seem logical to me since the age of a bill or it's properties (faded or repeatedly folded) isn't really a way to determine it's authenticity.

But it's what they want, so that's what they are going to get. So I just need to ask if our credit union can help us get a few thousand in brand new bills. I'm trying to decide if I should inform the teller first that we need it because we're adoption from Russia or just say what I need and see what kind of expression they get on their face. It should be good for a laugh or two. And of course we live in the San Francisco Bay Area which, I know this is shocking, has a few other banks. So even if my credit union can't help us I can easily get a major bank that can.

NEWS UPDATE More good news, there's been a number of reports from a bunch of agencies that the second batch of accreditations have happened today. We'll have to wait and see how many but it certainly appears to be at least the same number that were in the first batch. I'm getting a little worried now because the good news just keeps on pouring in.

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posted by Steveg @ 11:55 AM   3 comments
Some whispers that things are gearing up
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
We're still waiting for the regions to get going with registering the agencies who were part of the first batch of accreditations. I suppose it's more like we're waiting for the region we're headed to. But we heard some good news that it appears other regions are moving forward and that our region is just about there. Again, it is still possible that our agency which works in nine regions (9 Times Mrs. Bueller, sorry another 80's dated joke) might move us to a different region if they feel it will be easier for us to get a referral that matches up with us better.

But the really good news is that the one region in Russia (Khabarovsk ) which was completely closed down is now up and working with our agency to get court dates for waiting families. This is huge. This is the region where they were not allowing adoptions to be completed until accreditations were done.

The way I think of it there are (in a global sense) three main parts to adopting a child from Russia. First is the homestudy and (what I call the U.S. side) where you are given the right to adopt a child. Second is acceptance of a referral (basically finding your child and filling out all the paperwork to adopt them). And third is the court approval of the adoption (the legal recognition of the adoption).

After accreditations expired and of course it most cases it has been over a year for the waiting agencies to be reaccredited, most of the regions would allow the parents who had completed the first two parts to finish their adoption even though their agency's accreditation had expired. In most cases they just allowed the parents to finish the adoption as an "independent adoption". So over the past year even without accreditation families have been able to bring their children home.

To my knowledge one and only one region (I think there are something like 50!!! regions) did not allow this to happen. Consequently, parents who have met and already made emotionally connections with a child have been waiting for over a year to get a court date and bring their child home. Thankfully Khabarovsk is now officially working to get court dates for these parents and bring the adoption to a happy conclusion.

And that is good news indeed.


posted by Steveg @ 4:01 PM   4 comments
A post script on FRUA
Don't get me wrong, I don't consider the FRUA forum hell on earth or anything. There are tons of good threads. Threads that give you great information, things like stuff on adoption tax credits, what hotels to stay in, the whole "30 below outside but they crank up the heat inside to 90 degrees everywhere in Russia", anything posted by Jim (well almost anything).

Keep in mind that Snowsuit swap idea came from a post I read on FRUA (special thanks to FRUA person who goes by "Dannyssong" for that one). And I do continue to post things there every now and then. But since I'm using Stef's account, I tend to post infrequently and even then I make sure I'm on my best behavior.

This blog is different, I'm on my "toddler behavior". Well hopefully not that bad. But the reality is a blog is a singular point of view. It's my blog, plain and simple. And since the Patriot Act has not eliminated the First Amendment, I can post my opinion pretty freely. And of course, I do. But you know what you're getting. It's pretty easy when reading my blog (or anyone else's for that matter) to ascertain the beliefs and the ideology of the blogger.

The premise is that you came here to me, pardon the pun, to hear me.

My contention with FRUA is that they are a community forum. And naturally there's a big difference between that and a blog. Now, it's okay to be vocal on FRUA and even a bit heated. But it's not okay to grossly flame someone on an open forum.

It's sort of like if you really disliked someone and you went to their work and started to tell everyone at their workplace what a bad person they were (or their church or their gym or whatever). A blog is more like going out with your friends to a bar and complaining about that person you disliked.

But just like others, I do check it out and there is often good information that is hard to find elsewhere, sort of like a garage sale. But like a yard sale, there's a lot of trash too.
posted by Steveg @ 7:56 AM   1 comments
Fighing Rude Union of Argumentive people
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
I mentioned a few times about the Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption forum (FRUA). It's a good site for getting information, but like most forums contains a lot of trash too. More often than not when things don't go very well in someone's adoption that person will post looking for the community to provide what good communities do...support and empathy. And most of the stories posted there are not happy ones. As a result it's important if you are new to the wonderful world of international adoption that you take what you read there with a grain of salt. So I stay completely away from the horror stories of FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) because I do my own research on that one and (contrary to my normal cynicism of the medical community) believe most of what the international adoption doctors say about the subject.

And so several months ago I started to only look at the forum if Stef found something interesting and wanted me to take a look. However, during the times of hot rumors I did check it often just to see what other people had heard. Or I do like to check out some good controversial topic, like circumcision. Those babies are usually great for entertainment. But let me point out that there is a very big difference between a heated argument and (what always seems to follow on FRUA) personal attacks. And the latter is another reason I don't read that forum too often and rarely if ever post. And when I do, I post under Stef's account.

Why Stef's? Because I was so disgusted with the personal attacks and such sordid personal criticism against posters that I closed down my account many months ago. Some of the problems, I think, are because of the admin. A forum like that needs a calm very impartial hand (in other words, not me). And regrettably the FRUA Admin is pretty weak in that area. I'm really shocked by his brutal attacks against anyone who contradicts or corrects his own posts. I guess that's why FRUA is such a rough place. When you have leadership or at least moderator/adim folks handling themselves without decorum you're in essence saying it's okay for everyone else do to it too.

Recently the admin allowed a direct personal attack thread to exist for a couple of days, it even had as a title the name of the user being attacked!!! It should have been taken down immediately and the person who started it banned or put on suspension. Keep in mind I actually disagree with most of what the person who was being attacked says on FRUA. But just because I disagree with this person does not mean they deserve to be attacked.

What a disgrace. But I suppose when around us the greatest nation in the world, the one which stands for freedom and liberty is trying to change the Geneva Convention so that we can carry on torturing people what do you expect from it's average citizens. It's sad that most Americans would have made great Nazis. Try to at least do something right for the future of the world and raise your kids to strive for peace and the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Yes, the Dark Side may be powerful but mean people suck and being nice is actually pretty easy to do.
posted by Steveg @ 11:45 AM   9 comments
We're old, but we still rock
Monday, July 16, 2007
We went to a concert last night. It was three bands from our youth: The Alarm, The Fixx and the headliner The Psychedelic Furs. Massive amounts of fun. The venue was a small club in San Francisco which was great because it reminded me of the places I went to see concerts when I was in high school (places like the Whiskey-a-go-go in LA where I saw XTC and the punk group X). In fact, it's actually kind of strange but I've never attended a stadium type concert.

The show was sold out and we actually got there kind of early hoping to grab some food and drinks before the show but ended up just heading over to stand in line. Which turned out to be very cool because we ended up being in the front right at the stage.

I mainly went to see the Furs but I also enjoyed The Alarm. They (The Alarm) opened the show and although I only remembered two of their songs I was really impressed with them. Great tunes, powerful live band that started the show off right.

I cannot say the same for The Fixx. Utterly disappointing. As one of our friends said...it looked like they were there for a paycheck and nothing more.

Then came the Furs and thankfully they made The Fixx a memory. They were just outstanding. They did a great set featuring most of their more mainstream hits (Pretty in Pink, Love My Way and The Ghost In You) as well as some of their earlier work (and my personal fav's) like Dumb Waiters and Heaven. The closed their encore with my most favorite of favorite's India in which they blew the roof off the place.

They obviously had the amps set at "Eleven" (a little Spinal Tap humor for those that get it).

As I said we were in the front (and I mean leaning-up-against-the-stage front) and Richard Butler (vocals) favorite spot was literally standing above Stef as he blasted out songs in his classic raspy tone. She told me after the show she was really nervous that he might fall on top of her as he was leaning so much over the edge of the stage.
posted by Steveg @ 12:37 PM   3 comments
I was tagged, 8 Random Things
Sunday, July 15, 2007
I was tagged by Dede (or her adoption blog) to do an "8 Random Things" post. I was going to pass it along to Stef because I felt (pardon the obvious stupid male answer) it was a bit too "girly" but then I read her post about it and she too isn't really into these types of things but decided to do it.

And her comments about the whole thing (that it gives more insight to readers who you are, etc.) made so much sense that I just had to comply and do it. It's like the Borg was after me...resistance is futile.

Not that I really think this will enlighten anyone on who I really am. Actually it will just enforce the belief that...Boy, this guy is really a nut. But that's cool. I'm not a big fan of popularity contests.

Part of the deal is to list the rules so let's get rolling:

  1. Each player posts a blog entry listing 8 random facts about themselves.
  2. People who’re tagged need to write a blog post with these rules & their own list of 8 random things.
  3. At the end of the post, you tag up to 8 other bloggers you’d like to see participate.

Holy crap! I need to find eight other people to send this to? I don't think I even know eight people. Scratch that, I meant to say I don't know eight people who would want to know me.

Whew, I misread it. It says up to eight. What a relief.

Okay, on with my list.

  1. I failed my first driving test. I was crushed, broke down and cried. My mom let me stay home from school so I could retake it the next day without anyone knowing.
  2. I coached a high school baseball team while I was in college.
  3. In junior high I would get permanents done to have short kinky/curly hair, almost an afro (think Disco). And yes, a picture will follow soon.
  4. I've been to 2 Super Bowls, 1 Rose Bowl, 1 World Series, and the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.
  5. My first job was a dishwasher in one of my father's restaurants. He owned a chain and I had to take a bus to go to work when I was 13.
  6. I have a gay step-brother and gay brothers-in-law and during college had gay roommates and despise anyone who does not treat gays with the respect any human being deserves.
  7. I nearly flunked out of college but eventually graduated with honors.
  8. I always wanted to be a writer.

Now I just need to figure out who I'm going to tag.
posted by Steveg @ 4:19 PM   1 comments
Wow, quite a response
Friday, July 13, 2007
Well all I was looking for was a simple majority opinion to help sway me one way or another on the baby monitor. But what I got was a clear message that the monitors are useful, in fact very very useful.

And remember we're geeks, so I really didn't much to convince me to get another electronic device. Although I am now trying to convince Stef that since I have all the needed electronics as part of our assortment of Macintosh computers, I should just do what I had first wanted to do. And that is a computer based monitoring system that would be viewable on any of our computers within our network.

Hello!!! Remember I'm a geek.

In other words this should not come as a surprise.

But I did just want to thank everyone who commented on the last post. Excellent and valuable insight.
posted by Steveg @ 10:50 AM   1 comments
To baby monitor or not to baby monitor that is the question
Thursday, July 12, 2007
What I need is an answer.

Okay, if you've read even a small portion of my posts you know we're geeks. But I've been doing some research on those baby monitors which I had thought were a must-have and most people say it's more of a "if you want them, get them". So I just wanted to get a feel from others. The nice thing about this blog is that I've learned probably 10 times the stuff that I've posted about. So I figured I'd just see what everyone thought about it and maybe it would help me determine what we should do.

Some background info.

The only use I think we'll have with it is during sleep/nap times.

We do have a large house (or what I think is a large house) but the kid's room is pretty close to our room with the door openings only about 10 feet away from each other.

I had actually thought of even going to such an extreme as setting up a monitor system that would enable us to monitor the nursery via our computers (thru our home network) and/or the TV on a closed circuit. Yea, I told you...Geeks.

Anyway, just pick the option that best matches your thoughts on the subject. And please feel free to expand on your opinion with comments (in the blog post I mean).

Did you buy a baby monitor (and your thoughts)
Yes, we use it often/love it
Yes, sort of use it/sort of like it
Yes, but in hindsight wouldn't buy one again
Yes, but we haven't used it yet
No, wish I had/thinking about getting one
No, sometimes it might be nice
No, glad I didn't
Free polls from Pollhost.com


posted by Steveg @ 9:32 AM   8 comments
Snowsuit Swap site is ready
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
After exhaustive research analyzing dozens of options with hours and hours of programming the Snowsuit Swap page is ready for some beta testing.

Okay, okay, so in reality I spent about 15 minutes on like three possible solutions. Just don't tell anyone.

Anyway, the Yahoo Groups came away as the best solution. It has a darn good database built into it where snowsuits can be listed as well as a place for photos of the snowsuits to be uploaded. Plus it has good privacy/security mechanisms and is easy to use. And best of all it won't require a lot of maintenance.

What we need now is a bunch of folks to join the group and just fiddle around with it doing some example snowsuit donation listings (aka beta testing) and hopefully provide some suggestions or enhancements. For example it would be nice to have an FAQ to answer questions some people may have about donating or trying to get a donated snowsuit.

I've loaded up a couple of example's onto the database already and some links (U.S. Postal Service rates page, etc.). But please feel free to add anything else you feel would be helpful. It would also be beneficial to start spreading the word (assuming you think this is a worthwhile effort of course).

So how do you join?

Just head to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/snowsuitswap/

There's a button on the right hand side that says "Join This Group". And then just follow the instructions.
posted by Steveg @ 9:49 PM   1 comments
The Great Snowsuit Swap
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
So there has been quite a bit of support for a easy website that will allow people to provide snowsuits (hand-me-downs, donations, "take it we're never going to use in living in the Mojave Desert", whatever you want to call it). In fact someone on FRUA suggested even using it for other things that people might want to donate to adoptive families (like adapters/converters, if you don't do much international travel this is something you may also find as a "man, I had to get one of these for just one use" things).

But let's first get the snowsuit part of this going. It'll probably just take me a week to get something up and running. I just want to make sure it is something that is totally painless for the donators (after all they are doing people a big favor) and also easy for the donatees to get something that they will in fact be able to use when bringing home their little one(s).

There are just a few little things I need to wrap my head around. Things like security/privacy, for example I want to make sure the donatees are actually adopting parents who will (I hope) in turn donate the snowsuit when they're done with it.

So again if you're interested in participating please feel free to email me or just keep watching this site or the FRUA forums for updates (I'll probably have Stef post it on the other forums she belongs to as well).

See, Russia is a funny place

Here's a fairly humorous site created by a clever student from a design school in Moscow. I got this link from Andrei. Who is Andrei you ask. He is a highly regarded travel agent located in Russia who specializes in services for adopting parents.

We haven't yet used him of course (remember we haven't done trip #1 yet), however everyone and I mean everyone that has highly recommends him. He provides the usual travel stuff (hotels, air, etc.) but also has key things you may wish to rent (cellphones, computers, etc.). And from what I've heard (haven't checked myself thou) his rates are very good. But everybody does seem to rave about him. In fact, our friends tell this story (the ones with the little girl that I posted about). They had an extremely early flight and there weren't any drivers available, so Andrei zips over to their hotel at some ungodly hour and drives them himself to the airport. Now that's service.

Anyway here's the link for that very humorous site. A special hint: click on the little icons on the bottom of the page.

posted by Steveg @ 10:58 AM   0 comments
Parents are clever, when the kid is just toddler
Monday, July 09, 2007
A couple of days ago in the Purchase of the Week post Rhonda mentioned that she had gotten floor mats that actually made sounds like car and train noises when her son stepped on them. The batteries as Rhonda says "were promtly removed." Jim then told the funny story that his 5 year old still believes that when the batteries in a sound toy run out, that's it for the toy. The toy will never be able to make sound again.

He says he'll let her in on the secret soon (like when she's 18).

All this reminded me of a line my dad used for nearly a decade (between myself and my little sister).

You see, we were very lucky children. There are many children in the world who aren't as fortunate as we were, according to my dad. These children didn't have as many toys or clothes or blankets or all sorts of stuff that we had. He went on to explain that there were two particular kids that he knew quite well and that we really needed to help them. We needed to give them gifts of our old toys and things so that they could have as happy a childhood as we were having.

And we were told that they're names were Myrtle and Gyrtle.

Oh yes, Myrtle and Gyrtle. Yes, that's what the story was and even more ridiculous, we believed it.

I'm not quite sure when I caught on to this sham, it was certainly after I had started school so I might have been a sucker till I was like seven. I really hope it wasn't any later than that. My ego just couldn't take it.

But you can be absolutely sure of one thing...

For our child Myrtle and Gyrtle will be used in full force. It really made me feel good when I was little that I was helping out these poor little kids who were like me but just didn't have all the cool toys I got. I actually still have in my mind an image of what these two kids looked like.

And of course my parents did donate the usable stuff so in essence part of the story was true. Although I'm sure some of the stuff was so bad it had to trashed.

Back to that snowsuit thing. If there's enough interest I'd be glad to set up a website so that people with snowsuits they have no use for can donate them to parents who need them for the pickup trip. And then those parents can re-donate them to other parents and so on.

If you are interested in this just email me (the email is under my profile, the link is under our picture on the top right).


posted by Steveg @ 1:05 PM   5 comments
Just some random thoughts
Sunday, July 08, 2007
Let's jump on that information superhighway.

Sorry, that's so last century. I don't know why they ever coined that stupid phrase to begin with. What was wrong with "Internet". Obviously nothing since that's what we called it before that catchphrase and that's what we call it now.

But I digress.

Not sure if people caught my Mother-in-law's comment about how she was surprised that there were a bunch of comments from people at like 5 AM in the morning. Of course it shows up that way because I have the blog set to my time zone (Pacific) so it lists posts and comments in that zone regardless of which time zone the commentator is from. But it is true that most adoptive parents (myself included) get way into the whole adoption thing. Perhaps a bit too much, certainly I feel I do.

Back to the Internet, I must say all our grandparents-to-be are actually quite up on computers and technology. Of course Stef and I are computer geeks I suppose partially because we've worked at places like Apple, Sun, and Oracle, but I really think it's just because we like that kind of stuff. The nice thing is that all the grandparents are not overwhelmed with some of the techie things we do like blogs, email, digital photos, and so on or even some of things we plan on doing, like video conferencing, etc.

Global Cooling?

Rhonda had some nice advice when I mentioned that I sort of, kind of, maybe didn't mind too much if we did hit a solid Siberian winter because after all we are heading to Russia and shouldn't we really experience what saved the country against countless invaders (just ask Napoleon and Hitler). And having as she puts it "...REALLY warm gloves..." is something that is essential. But that gets me going on another pet peeve.

She mentioned it and Stef keeps are harping about it too and this is...a snowsuit. It ticks me off that we have to get one since it will without question be used only once. There's not too much of a chance for a blizzard to hit San Francisco anytime soon. And by the time we do take a vacation to the mountains the kid will have grown so we'll be buying something new anyway.

But as Stef says (with force may I add) we must have a snowsuit if we pick up the kid between September and April. This is actually from our agency's travel packet, which is a very helpful group of booklets and notes on do's and don'ts, FAQs, and even "Ideas for what to do while you wait" (during the ten day waiting period).

And a snowsuit IS a must. Actually it's more like a bunch of layers underneath and then a snowsuit so that it makes the kid look like a marshmallow.


Because if you don't the Babushkas will come after you. And one of the things I absolutely want to avoid is having some old woman read me the riot act for not having the kid dressed properly. And from what I hear they do and are vicious in their criticism.

And it's not like I can say, "If you think this is bad you should see how I change their diapers."

Unless I wish to get beaten to death with a sack of potatoes.
posted by Steveg @ 3:27 PM   5 comments
Back to the pool
Saturday, July 07, 2007
So I may try to get some more of those foam play mat things (maybe just a set of plain ones with different colors) after all the comments people made. I hadn't thought about how cool those things will be to create forts and things (assuming a boy) or a princess castle (assuming a girl).

Not to say that girls aren't allowed to build a fort and boys can't build a prince castle. If there is one thing I'm very liberal on it's the roles men and women can play.

So today I was sitting out by the pool, that major heat wave here in the west really only hit us for just a couple of days and today it was a beautiful 86 degrees. Anyway, I always check to see what the weather is like in Omsk (again, it's possible that we won't be going there but I'm like 90% sure we will) and they also had a nice day albeit a tad cooler at 68 degrees.

Which of course made huff that this whole accreditation thing couldn't have been completed on time which would have meant that our second trip would actually be happening at this time of the year. Oh no, they had to make sure I got a full taste of a Russian winter. They just had to insure that these two Americans raised in Southern California and Phoenix, Arizona got to suffer.

Don't tell Stef but I'm actually happy about heading there during the winter. I mean if you are going to head to Russia, especially Siberia, you really should experience a winter there. Being there in July with people wearing shorts would be like heading to Egypt and not seeing the Pyramids.
posted by Steveg @ 2:18 PM   4 comments
Purchase of the Week
Friday, July 06, 2007
I had hinted once the reaccreditation thing was real it meant our self imposed constraint on buying toys and things for the kid-to-be would be thrown out the window.

Well accreditation is here so let the buying spree begin!

I still neeed to post some interior shots of the last Purchase of the Week (our new minivan) or as Dede cleverly called it the Little Utility Vehicle (LUV). Especially of our dog in his, yes, dog seat (kinda like a child seat but for the four legged little ones). Naturally the minivan is more like a Purchase of the Year since we don't plan on spending quite that much on a weekly basis. As those who know me well will attest, the name "Steve" is synonymous with the word "Cheap". So let me tread on with the next installment of the POW. We got it from Costco online.

Really Steve? You bought something from Costco, how surprising.

Yes, well it's actually from Costco.com so don't look for it at your local Costco and find it on their website instead. As you can see it's foam play mat set. It was a screaming deal for $32.99 (shipping included, see there's the cheap thing coming out again).



I had been looking at these for quite awhile since this room in which you see in the background has wood floors. We had used it as a library when we first moved into the house. Of course now it's serving a much more important and fancy purpose as a place to store the Christmas tree and things I need to sell on Craigslist.

It's a pretty cool little area that we had thought of making into a play area first and then maybe in a few years have some built-in shelving done (bookshelves, a desk, etc.) and make into a little studying area.

The foam mat sets are very cool and this one was just a great price for a coverage area of 36 square feet (each square is 12" x 12" and there are both numbers and letters of the alphabet so 36 total). It also comes with a 50 small foam building blocks toy set so it's a pretty sweet deal.

I had been looking at these foam mats for awhile with prices in the $2-$5 per square foot range. Hence the great deal on this set at $32.99 for 36 sq. ft. I wanted to have something there so that they don't hurt themselves on the hard wood floors.

Yes, you may begin laughing at me now.

Stef said to me, "You realize they're going to be outside playing on concrete and stuff?" So of course I shot back, "Yea you're right. Okay, maybe we should spray that foam rubber insulation stuff all over the concrete areas backyard."

Please feel free to continue laughing at me.

Now this is coming from a guy who in high school use to play tackle football every weekend without any pads or a helmet. In fact when I first met Stefanie I had six stitches above my right eye (and a major shiner) from an collision I had from a pick-up basketball game (this was while we were in college).

And now I'm worried that my child might get a boo-boo from falling onto a wood floor. Yep, the times they are a' changing.
posted by Steveg @ 9:17 AM   9 comments
Hand made blankets
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Debbie whose adoption blog you can get to here has a very cool hobby/side business that I just had to give a plug to.

She makes these very beautiful hand made blankets (just click on this picture to go to her blanket site).


Also quite cool is that you can just make donations if you want. With the very high expense of international adoption a lot of families have to devote a significant portion of their savings or income just to bring a child home. It's clever that Debbie has set up this donation thing, very cool concept.

What's even cooler is that whenever you buy a blanket she'll donate one as well!!! Okay, that's awesome.

Stef and I have to get one of these but it may take us some time to figure out what we really want, customized wise.

It's actually sort of strange. We live in an extremely complex world where mass production and commercialization is the norm. So when you find things that are handmade you are almost always amazed at the craftsmanship, the quality, and really the superiority of the products people have created versus the often low end stuff you pay twice the price for at some department store or mass retailer.

Along the way to the benefits of economies of scale we've somehow landed into the world of product mediocrity.


posted by Steveg @ 9:56 AM   0 comments
More on the first batch of accreditations
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
So Stef just let me know that someone one FRUA found a Russian blog about international adoption that had what appears to be the first "list" of the agencies accredited in this first batch of accreditations. This is NOT an official MOE annoucement, but it's the first that provides details about who received accreditation.

I know I keep harping on this but for those who are with agencies that are not in this first batch, you really need to feel encouraged about this event happening at all. Think of it at the first agency that got NGO. We saw after that first one that the NGOs started dropping like flies. And with the history that we have from the prior delay in 2005, we should all know (not feel but know) that there are going to be many more agencies getting these certificates in large groups over the next couple of weeks.

Anyway, for those interested, here is the link to the blog. And here's the translation of what it says (per Google's translation)...

Today in the Ministry of Education and Science of Russia held a copy of the service order Fursenko, Minister of June 27th for accreditation (now officially called "authorized to operate on the adoption of children (adoption) of the Russian Federation"), representatives of eight foreign companies. Among them were seven American private agencies : Children's Home Society & Family Services, International Assistance Group, Cradle of Hope Adoption Center, Frank Adoption Center, Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Charlotte, Family & Children's Agency, Cradle Society, as well as the French state agency L'Agence Francaise d'Adoption. The accreditation of these five agencies ended more than a year ago, the 17th May 2006, two-15th September 2006, a French agency previously had no accreditation. Thus ended a long period of time, during which no foreign agency is not able to extend the accreditation, and they were forced to cease official activities in Russia. According to the director of the Department of Youth, Education and Child Welfare Ministry of Education and Science of Russia Alina Levitskaya, to cooperate with international adoption agencies will be continued, while the so-called "independent" adoptions in Russia must be stopped. At the same time, in line with government policy, presidential priority will be the appliance of children in Russian families, including custody, in foster families and patronage.

P.S. I had to post this follow up because the Babushka is requiring up-to-the-minute updates.
posted by Steveg @ 4:14 PM   1 comments

Our agency's Moscow head was at the MOE today and picked up the accreditation certificate. Even though today is a holiday our director obviously went into work for a little while and updated the hotline to let us know they are now in possession of their certificate.

However, as they had said before since basically the whole staff is off today (just here in the U.S. of course) they won't be able to post it onto their website until tomorrow. Needless to say, we will be having a very happy 4th of July.

Until the agencies start posting this information on their websites (or the MOE posts the list on the government website) we really won't know how many agencies (or who) got accredited in this first batch. However, as I have postulated before the accreditations will start really flowing now and I would expect to see many more groups of many more agencies getting their accreditations over the next several weeks.
posted by Steveg @ 10:08 AM   8 comments
About Us




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.

The Great Snowsuit Swap
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"The two greatest obstacles to democracy in the United States are, first, the widespread delusion among the poor that we have a democracy, and second, the chronic terror among the rich, lest we get it."

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