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Trying to Keep Busy by Volunteering
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Since we're still waiting for our travel dates (and trying to be as patient as we can), we've been trying to keep busy with things we might not be able to do once Little G comes home.

Last year I posted about one of our favorite events, the BMW Ultimate Drive. This is an annual event hosted by BMW to support Susan G. Komen for the Cure where BMW will donate $1 for each mile driven by the participants. There are actually two fleets of about 20 cars traveling across the country, one takes a northern route and the other a southern. This year both fleets will be visiting the bay area, the first came through last week, and the second is coming in October to the northern bay area dealers (Concord, Berkeley, San Francisco).

Friday was our day for this year and I took the day off of work so we would have plenty of time to just hang around and drive the cars we wanted. I ended up driving three with Steve as my passenger and he drove just one. The good news is you can really try out the cars for an extended period and play with all the gadgets, the bad news is that we usually end up wanting a new car. In this case, Steve from the Retire Early and Sleep Well At Night organization will be very happy with my decision that the 7-series is way to big for me to be driving so I just saved us a bunch of money Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Now for the extra fun part. We always wondered how they got the cars themselves from dealer to dealer (the workers travel across the country in an RV) but quickly found out. While we were chatting with the workers waiting for the next drive, they asked us is we were willing to drive a couple of the cars since they were having problems confirming the volunteers to drive from the dealer in Pleasanton to the next dealer in Monterey (about a two hour drive). When they asked, Steve and I both looked at each other with a "heck ya" look and tried not to jump up and down too much, promptly went inside and signed up.

We showed up later Friday afternoon, got assigned our car (convertible 3 series), and everyone took off as a caravan, it was quite a site to see about 20 cars painted with the signature pink ribbons driving down the freeway one after the other on a Friday afternoon. Once we got to Monterey, they put us all on a shuttle bus, gave us a free t-shirt, snacks and drinks, and we were off headed back to Pleasanton. This trip alone raised about $2000 of the $1Million BMW donates annually so what else could you ask for, raising money while having a blast. Maybe I'll take another day off in October just to do it again!
posted by yorkiemom @ 1:12 PM   3 comments
More document updates
Saturday, August 25, 2007
As I've previously mentioned due to the length of our adoption journey (duration not distance) we've had to update a number of items. For example, our homestudy which was original done in July 2006 needed to be updated since it was a year old. Now, our CIS fingerprints (valid for 15 months) needed to be retaken.

We just received our new appointments for the CIS fingerprinting (it's for the week of September 4th). So we'll be getting that done soon and will be yet another update will be completed, thankfully. It is rather odd, though, that the expiration of the CIS fingerprinting is 15 months. The fingerprints are done as part of the paperwork necessary for the I171h form. This form is the authorization by the U.S. government to allow us to adopt a foreign born orphan and bring them into this country to become a U.S. citizen.

Now the odd part is that the I-171h form is valid for 18 months, but the fingerprints (again a required part to get the form) are valid for only 15 months. Odd. Odder still is that because our I-171h is valid until January we most likely will not be needing it renewed. But because our fingerprints expire in October (and that is when we most likely will be coming home) we do need to get them renewed. So we're getting the fingerprints done even though we will not be needing a new I-171h. These nonsensical expiration dates are even better than some of the strange Russian regulations. Nice to see our government is number one in just about everything (including moronic regulations).

But wait, it actually works out okay.

CIS is raising the prices for I-171h's. It used to be $545 but is now $670 and fingerprinting was $140 and is now $160. But because adoptions worldwide have a tendency to take longer than 18 months, one free extension (really a renewal) is given to anyone whose fingerprints or I-171h expires after July 31st (when this new price increase went into effect). So in one of those completely rare instances, we actually don't have to spend money to get something done.

Shocking but true.
posted by Steveg @ 11:10 AM   3 comments
Being "Cash Rich"
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Well I stopped by our credit union today and got all the cash we need. Remember we have to have clean, unmarked bills for the payments for our coordinator, translator, and driver. And the amount we pay (roughly $5,000) is all given on the first trip. The reason you need clean bills is that most banks and foreign exchange places throughout the world, not just Russia, are very wary of counterfeit U.S. bills. So I needed to take that amount out (plus some walking around cash).

Fortunately the manager at our local branch of our credit union is familiar with this since he told me that another customer makes trips to the far east twice a year and he routinely stores up cash for him. So I was able to get everything we need from him so that's one less thing we need to worry about.

By the way, that term "Cash Rich" is actually what my dad always uses for the concept of maintaining a good personal balance sheet. Ah sorry, I guess even that was a bit too much finance gobbly-goop. What I mean is not to have too much debt (or at least what I call "bad debt") and to stay Cash Rich. And in these days of credit worries, which quite frankly the finance industry brought upon themselves, it's a good mantra to live by.

And in the off chance you are interested, what I consider good debt vs. bad debt is...

Good debt is tax deductible, long term, low rate debt (i.e., home mortgages).

Bad debt is high rate debt (i.e., credit cards, etc.).

It's fine (and actually quite beneficial) to have the first. But try to have none, as in zero, of the second.

This has been a public service announcement from the Retire Early and Sleep Well At Night organization. Thank you for your time.
posted by Steveg @ 11:48 AM   0 comments
Keeping things in bounds
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
I wanted to expand on the whole FRUA forum issue by just pointing out that most forums have open areas where you can post whatever you want. On the FRUA page it's called "Open Forum" and that is where a lot of these posts really belong.

The biggest problem with FRUA is that, since obviously the clientele have no desire to remain civil, the administrators need to actively and forcefully manage posts which go out of bounds. And that can be accomplished through deletions of posts, movement of posts (to places like the Open Forum), and even suspensions of accounts.

But continuing to allow people to get out of hand will only lead to further problems and in most cases more severe ones. Setting boundaries and adhering to those boundaries is something that both children and obviously parents need.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled broadcast.
posted by Steveg @ 10:13 AM   0 comments
They're at it again
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Oh baby the folks on FRUA are indeed priceless.

I wrote some time ago about how I felt it was totally unacceptable to make specific derogatory attack posts about a specific forum member. And of course not a month could go by without it happening again on that forum. Now it's true that the crux of the issue is a very derogatory statement made by a person which has now led to the lynch mob tactics against that person. And although I was quite frankly appalled at the original comment which led to this, the response is just as bad.

I wish folks whould remember that when posting to a forum about "Russian Adoption" they should follow the old "don't talk about religion or politics" mantra. Or at least the religion part. But here again I have to rail on the "administrator" of that forum (and I put that in quotes because most of the problems on that forum are due in some small part to their incompetence in that role). They should be deleting posts asap which are so obviously insulting.

A public forum is not the place for either kind of behavior that is going on. That stuff belongs in some useless cavity of meaningless and arbitrary dribble. Like a blog for example.

Oh, and just some more words of advice. Don't use the "N" word about someone of African-American decent, don't use the word "Crusade" to a Muslim, don't compare anything the Israeli army has done or will do to Hitler, no matter how stupid he is don't tell a Fundamentalist Christian that Bush is a moron.

Okay, okay so the last one might be a slight exaggeration.

The point is, learn a little history and recognize that the worst of the worst for a particular peoples should never be drawn as a comparison to those same peoples.

There are so many other words and ways to degrade, insult, humiliate, disgrace, demean, and belittle people. And if you are clever you can do it while making them laugh. It's called satire, I do it all the time, it's great fun. Go ahead, give it a try.
posted by Steveg @ 5:41 PM   2 comments
A good book on development
Thursday, August 16, 2007
One of the IA doctors we're using recommended a very good book to us on child development. It's called Baby Steps and it is interesting in that it covers the "how" of development in addition to the actual milestone. She mainly felt it was a good "guidebook" which will help to identify the level the child is currently at, knowing of course that the institutional living will have an adverse effect on their development.

It only covers the first two years but is really excellent read. And instead of just the typical "...at 12 months a child should... it augments those "normal" development levels with wider ranges of what children may be able to exhibit. Which is really nice since any of the typical milestones are pretty fluid for all children. It also seems to be far more detailed than the What to Expect the Toddler Years which we read what now seems like ages ago.

Overall it's been a nice read and I certainly recommend it.
posted by Steveg @ 11:10 PM   2 comments
Diaper bag...check
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
We pulled the trigger on getting a couple of diaper bags. I bought mine first and (obviously out of jealously) Stef bought one. I ended up going with the Diaper Dude bag. Originally I didn't want to spend that much but after going back and forth for literally months, I realized that it was the best bag for me. I had to have a bag that did not look like a diaper bag and yet have tons of pockets and useful features.

The clincher was when I just recently replaced my camera bag. I had bought a smaller one that had lots of little pockets and such but was just too small for both a digital camera and a camcorder (and the wires, tapes, etc.). So that really made an impression on me for the need for a diaper bag that could hold everything I potentially will need to hold. When I first wrote about which diaper bag to get there were a ton of comments and as most of the people had recommended, I would need a larger bag than what I first thought. And dealing with my camera bag I realized they were right.

I've been fiddling with it and I do like it. I hate backpacks as I had previously mention but this bag has some of the benefits that a backpack provides. It's carried over the chest so you don't need to hang onto it. And as some folks had said, that's a tough task when also holding onto a squirming baby. And it does seem to be made very well, in some cases much better than some of the lower priced bags I had been looking at. So overall I'm pretty happy with it. Of course the big test is yet to come.

Update: Stef's bag got here today. To answer Debbie comment, she ended up just getting a low end one from Target. I think she was trying to shy away from some of the more expensive ones after she showed me the Burberry bag for $500 and I said..."Ok, but you'll have to tell the kid why he was only able to get a lump of coal for Christmas."

Actually she said she just wanted to get a cheap one to see what she really needed in a diaper bag and wanted to experiment with something that was under $30. Since the Kate Spade ones go for $200+, I was needless to say pleased she's trying this one out first. And of course I'm secretly praying that she ends up liking it and only needing this one.
posted by Steveg @ 10:03 AM   1 comments
Purchase of the Week: More Toys!!!
Sunday, August 12, 2007
My sister sent us a monster group of toys and let me tell you this kid is going to have a major Christmas before Christmas!

On the news front, our dossier is on it's way to Moscow (in fact it may already be there as I type this). So hopefully the translation doesn't take too long and the regional MOE doesn't take too long reviewing it so we can get some travel dates soon. There are a couple of families from our agency heading over this week so at least we'll get some inside info of what to expect.

We went to a very cool class done by our homestudy agency ("What to Expect Your First Month Home"). We're really happy that they have these classes. They're usually very informative they almost always have families there as the "Panel of Experts". And you can go to as many of them as you want, there's no additional cost associated with them. If you're with this agency you can go to as many of them as you want for as long as you want. Although, I suspect they might question why you're still going to classes when the kid reaches high school.
posted by Steveg @ 10:02 AM   0 comments
Docs and Words
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Dossier status

We got the dossier to our agency (the Fedex arrived this morning) and they're checking it over today. Hopefully it will just be a couple of weeks for translation and shipment to Novosibirsk, not to mention a review by the regional MOE, and then we should be able to get some travel dates.

Our Russian studies are progressing well

We've been using flash cards of the alphabet and both Stef and I are pretty solid on knowing the Cyrillic alphabet now. We've also been using flash cards for our vocabulary learning. The CDs (we used the Pimsleur ones) were very good but sometimes it was really hard to hear the exact pronunciation of the words. Fortunately Russian is a very phonetic language, so knowing the spelling of the words had made it easy for us to get the right pronunciation.

We're probably only at maybe a 70 word vocabulary right now, but we should be able to be around 100 when we travel. And probably double that (hopefully more) by our second trip. The words we're focusing in on for the first trip are just common stuff (hello, good bye, thank you, please, where's is the restroom, etc.) as well as a few things to say at the orphanage (good boy, beautiful boy, etc.).

For the second trip we'll want to have a few things we can say in court. Again, the point here is not to become fluent, but just to make an attempt to speak in their language which we believe shows respect.
posted by Steveg @ 10:31 AM   3 comments
Dossier is done, bring on the apostilles
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Things are moving along well ahead of schedule. We got our updated homestudy today and over the weekend we got the rest of the redo of the dossier done. Again, because it's been over a year since we had our homestudy done we needed to get it updated (per Russian requirements) and since we are now going to a different region all of the other documents in the dossier also required a "do-over".

The only real negative part of all this is that we have our referral but cannot get travel dates until the dossier is completed and in region. So we've been a bit...er...pressing in our mood to get it done. But we've been conservative in our estimation for when we'd have it done, thinking it would be great to have everything to our agency by August 17th. So being able to get it to them by the end of this week is awesome.
posted by Steveg @ 9:24 PM   3 comments
Continuing to get things done
Sunday, August 05, 2007
We signed and notarized the vast majority of the new dossier yesterday. We only await the updated homestudy and that of course is awaiting the redo of my fingerprints, however the first part of those got to our homestudy agency last Tuesday so I'm hopeful that they will get the final check early this week. Once we have that our dossier is ready for the trip to Sacramento and then we'll be able to ship it out.

There were a lot of comment about how expensive the apostille process is here in California and unfortunately our state is a very microcosm of the nation in general. And as a result I don't believe anything can be done to alter the fee schedule or have something like Texas has in which the costs are capped at a certain number. The state government is not rolling in surpluses and thus cannot afford to give up even the slightest amount of revenue (no matter how logical the cause).

Back to the timeline for us getting to Novosibirsk, I really want to see that homestudy update done asap and if we can get it before the week's end we should be in good shape.
posted by Steveg @ 8:57 AM   3 comments
Yippee, we get to save a tree
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Nothing too interesting to report. We're working on getting the new dossier done. The good news is that the updated dossier requires much less pages. Actually that should be the new region's dossier requirements are less than our old region's requirements. Most of it is the same stuff but instead of needing 4 copies of our passports (yes, that was 4 copies of each of our passports), we now only need 2 each.

But all those less pages mean less notaries and less apostilles which means we get to do my favorite activity...

Save Money!!!

If you're just started your adoption journey my only hope for you is that you don't live in California. The apostille service here in the Golden State costs lots and lots of gold. Last year when we first did our dossier I wrote this story about apostille costs.
posted by Steveg @ 8:50 AM   7 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.

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