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Happy Halloween
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
We've actually been on a year long moratorium on holidays. While the whole accreditation delay was happening we just weren't in the mood to celebrate. Thankfully that's over for our agency and a good group of others, but we still are not quite in the party mood. Once Little A comes home that's going to change big time of course.

But this year, since we are now so close and feeling much more optimistic, we are at least participating in Halloween. Last year we were so sullen that we actually had all the lights off in our house and choose not to even get candy, it was just too painful to see all those little kids. We just wanted to pretend kids didn't even exist.

Fortunately those feelings are behind us and we're now comfortable with doing a little more participating in holidays. I've decorated our front yard a bit and, yes, we do have plenty of candy ready.

So let's the little monsters (no pun intended) show up!!!

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posted by Steveg @ 12:50 PM   1 comments
The Big One...
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Not really, and no nothing exciting like a court date, but we just had (like 15 minutes ago) the biggest earthquake I've ever felt!! See that big red box in the picture below, that was our earthquake tonight and the size of the box indicates how big it really is. Mr. LA even thought it was a biggun.

Luckily no damage, but we definitely felt it for about 20 seconds and both were standing in the doorways for safety. The dog kept sleeping through the whole thing, but the cat was a little agitated.

Hope everyone else in the Bay Area is safe as well.

Just an update: As Stef just posted we had quite a little shaker tonight. It was one of those medium sized quakes that really scares the bejesus out of you but thankfully nobody gets hurt. And the damage is usually minor (stuff falling off shelves, etc.).
posted by yorkiemom @ 8:20 PM   2 comments
Getting closer
Saturday, October 27, 2007
So we have heard that another family who had traveled about three weeks before us for their first trip have just gotten their court date and will be heading back next week. Yep, it seems that a one week's notice before you have to be in Russia is now the norm.

However, this is great news since it really sounds like things are moving in our region and we are hopeful (crossing my fingers right now) that we won't have to redo any paperwork and that our court date comes through in about three weeks time.

The strange thing is that both Stefanie and I have been having a very difficult time sleeping. All of the sudden we are now realizing that this nearly 17 month journey (more like 14 year journey to have a kid) is nearly finished. And that a little one is nearly upon us. And that is freaking us out.

We were having tremendous anxiety for the past year and a half because we really wanted to finally get our child. Now we're having tremendous anxiety because in a few weeks we are finally going to be getting our child.

Life is funny.
posted by Steveg @ 9:50 AM   6 comments
Why I retired early
Friday, October 26, 2007
I think this Dilbert explains exactly why I had such disdain for corporate America and choose to retire early.

posted by Steveg @ 9:16 AM   2 comments
The one who is actually prepared
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Well, I just have to say that it is Stef who isn't sure she's actually prepared for the cold. I just said it was clear the court date was approaching, She was the one who is freaking out over the cold.

I, on the other hand, during the past year have bought...

  • Heavy coat (Costco of course)

  • Winter boots (these puppies from LL Bean)

  • Silk weight long underwear (again LL Bean)

  • Ear warmers (I got these and they're very comfortable, forgot where I bought them from)

  • Flannel lined jeans (once again LL Bean, I love these and actually have been wearing them for years)

So you see I'm prepared, just concerned about the cold whilst (It really takes a wannabe writer to use the word whilst in a blog) Stefanie is both concerned AND unprepared. Although she did buy some of those Ugg style boots at Costco the other day. And from the days when she was an Oracle systems consultant (read that job as 100% travel) she has plenty of cold weather clothing since she was in places like Denver and Boston during the winter. But she's still feeling a bit unprepared.

This will be our second trip so we already know about the temperature inside buildings in Russia. When we were there in mid September with outside temperatures in the mid to upper 50's, they had the heat already cranked up to about 75-80 inside. In our little group of four families the first thing we did when we arrived at the orphanage is someone immediately ran over to the window and opened it up, while the other seven adults started to shed off clothing. That part of trip #2 we're very prepared for.

Edit Side note to Ryan. Darn right I'm a whimp, and proud of it. ;)
posted by Steveg @ 10:09 AM   4 comments
Kinda Scary II
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Has anyone taken a look at the webcam on the left????? The white stuff that is all over is SNOW.

Remember, I'm an Arizona girl and Steve's from Southern California so we're not snow people. We get panicky when the freeze warning beep in the car goes off. We'd appreciate any help any of you have for cold weather for non-cold weather people?

Follow up comment

I've added the pic of what it looked like yesterday in Novosibirsk below. And of course since both Stef and I are exclusively warm weather people we know the adoption gods are getting ready to have our court date. Interestingly enough, in the 14 years we've been married we've never been to a snow laden place together, yep, no ski trips, no nothing.

posted by yorkiemom @ 7:33 AM   10 comments
Kinda Scary
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Unfortunately with all those massive firestorms in Southern California our blog friend Tricia had to evacuate her house! She says they were able to go back to the house late last night. I know they (the officials down there) were being overly cautious because of what happened several years ago. But it's pretty scary to think about having to bail out of your house. But like a good adopting parent she made sure she took a copy of her dossier with her when she evacuated.

Seriously though, I'm hoping (and actually hopeful) that they will be able to contain the fire without it causing any more damage (or more importantly lives). Basically every fire department in the state is sending men and equipment down to there.

By the way, if you go to her blog she has some amazing shots of what the sky looks like with all that smoke.
posted by Steveg @ 9:19 AM   1 comments
FRUA versus the forum FRUA
Monday, October 22, 2007
Stef went to her first meeting at our local FRUA which is actually a new FRUA chapter here in the East Bay (that's one of the areas of the San Francisco Bay Area which covers a number of smaller cities within this mega metropolis). It was a seminar on creating a "life book" which she has been planning on doing for..oh...17 months now. She had a blast and got tons of information and ideas on how to put it together, what stuff you definitely want to have in it, the flow, etc. and just had a great time meeting with the other moms and moms-to-be.

I've often railed about the FRUA forum and the insensitivity of some of the posters. There's a big difference of course to an online forum where people have a fair amount of anonymity and a face to face social group. Needless to say, our local FRUA group (as I suspect they are all) is truly a safe haven where you can meet other adoptive parents and get good information, friendly advice, and just have fun. The event the local group had prior to this life book class was a trip to a pumpkin patch.

As Stef and I often say to each other (usually after finding some cool bit of esoteric information) the Internet is a great place. But...due to it's structure it also brings forth an over abundance of negatives. Everything from spam to online predators to inconsiderate behavior during discussions. And unfortunately that behavior is not limited to just the FRUA forum but infects all forums. I use to read a forum about our football team (the 49ers) but the tone is so adversarial between the posters that it just makes me feel uncomfortable just reading the stuff. I still peruse the FRUA forum every now and then (mostly to see if the next batch of accreditations have hit).

You can get a lot of good info from that forum although the software is not so hot and doesn't make for the best searching. It seems like only current topics are stored on the server. So if you search for some topic you may not get what was said about it several months ago. I think that's why every couple of months a question that was already answered is started again. Even if the person tried to search before posting (which of course not everyone does, regrettably) they may not have been able to find the answer.

Actually another benefit of joining your local FRUA group and asking them questions rather than posting something online is that you'll tend to find people with similar cultural beliefs. We often talk about how different the Russians are to Americans. Well, let me tell ya, there are some pretty large differences even between the geographic regions in the U.S. It's just a matter of fact. Birds of a feather flock together. And so you are apt to get a more meaningful and helpful answer to a question asking it from someone who has a lot in common with yourself.

I find it really odd when someone posts a deeply cultural question online as if everyone shares their religious/cultural beliefs. But then again I'm always perplexed when someone leaves me a comment that is overtly religious as if I'm a member of their church or something. Although unlikely, it is possible that the person you're leaving a "God will look out for you" message may be a Buddhist and thus a reference to God may not be the best thing to write. Oh, and no, I'm not Buddhist. But I do really like those cool robes the Buddhist monks wear. I might even convert just to be able to walk around in them. I'm very into comfy clothes.
posted by Steveg @ 10:35 AM   5 comments
Second Guessing
Friday, October 19, 2007
One of the tougher things during the this whole process is the second guessing you invariably do (on just about every decision you have made). Sometimes though it's good because it allows you to revisit a decision that made need a change. I know a lot of folks currently in the adoption process are thinking about that early but very big decision of picking an agency (those who are currently with an unaccredited agency). And with the seemingly endless delay in the next batch of accreditations, it's only natural to start wondering if it's time to switch agencies. Although fairly easy to do it is, unfortunately, a major change that means (in most cases) starting completely over and that means redoing a ton of the paperwork you've already amassed (and it can be an expensive proposition to boot).

However, and this is really my point on second guessing yourself, you have to go with your gut. If you feel it's the right thing to do, then you must really believe and know that it is. And certainly the accredited agencies are moving along quite rapidly right now. Of course each situation is different and merely switching agencies doesn't guarantee you're going to fly through the rest of the way. Referrals for girls are harder to get, siblings are harder to get, two children are harder, two girls are really really really hard (as one of our blog friends can certainly attest). So you need to determine what is best for you and go with your feelings. The decision you make is going to be the right one.

I will say, as strongly as I can, that if you are just starting out in the process you should (unless you have an extremely good reason) select only from the agencies that are accredited. The accreditation process is now so difficult to meander through that it is extremely unwise in my opinion to sign up with a non-accredited agency. There are folks who have been with their agency since their accreditation lapsed, in some case since May 2006, and are still waiting. And there are plenty of agencies that are accredited to choose from, so it's not like you are overly limiting yourself.

But whatever decisions you make on any of the number of choices you have during this process, you will find that in retrospect the ones you made are almost always the right ones. The reason I say this is that ultimately you find yourself face to face with a little person that makes you realize each call you made was the right one. I think back now and say to myself "Boy, I'm sure glad we decided not to increase our age range desire otherwise we never would have met Little A" and "I'm sure glad we decided to switch regions otherwise we never would have met Little A" and "Boy, I'm sure glad...otherwise we never would have met Little A". Really, it's like every decision we made is now a perfect one because without doing it exactly the way we have done it, we never would have had the possibility to meet our son.
posted by Steveg @ 8:56 AM   5 comments
Follow up on clothing
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Well obviously I don't buy women's clothes. I was unaware that a similar situation exists with women's clothing sizing and children's clothing sizing. For men's stuff a medium is a medium no matter who made it. So that's why I find is so incredible that kid's clothing sizes don't match up.

Just chaps my hide.
posted by Steveg @ 10:10 AM   2 comments
Putting a wardrobe together
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
We've been buying some outfits for Little A for awhile now and last weekend finished up with at least most of the clothes we feel we'll bring with us. It was actually pretty easy at this point to guess what size he will be wearing (assuming we get a court date even just remotely close to our expectations). The reason is he just entered into that 12-18 month sizing area and he'll be in that range for quite awhile.

I actually did a guesstimate on his size by looking at the measurements we were given in his referral and then the measurements we did on trip #1 and saw that they all were tracking spot on for the 3-5% percentile on the CDC growth charts. So I then did my thing (analysis) and realized that he most likely would be in that percentile range for the next several months (he won't really shoot up until we get him home and he gets a bit better nutrition, exercise, 1 on 1 time, etc.). Anyway, so that gave me a target over the next couple of months of his height and weight. And as I said, he's basically going to be in the 12-18 month range for most clothes.

But this leads me to a "what the heck were they thinking" point. So not all kids clothing sizes are the same. A 12-18 month shirt by one manufacturer may not actually be the same as another manufacturer. In fact some 12-18 stuff match up to other 18-24 stuff.


Who's the moron that came up with that?

So you have to check each manufacturer to see what their 12-18 month size fits. Basically they all list a height and weight range (like 22-26 lbs and 29-33 inches). So you have to really go by that.

And if that's the case then why the heck don't they just list that as the size??? I just find the whole 12-18 months doesn't really mean anything as completely stupid. Obviously the people who invented that use to work in some capacity in international adoption.

But the bottom line is we now have a bunch of onesies, rompers (and yes I now know the difference), blanket-sleepers, and a bunch of mix and match tops and bottoms. Of course I had to make sure we also got him a cool Nike sweatsuit outfit. Next is a cool 49er shirt, but we'll wait on that till he gets home.
posted by Steveg @ 5:00 PM   2 comments
Follow up on electric safety
Thursday, October 11, 2007
I actually came up with another extremely low cost solution if you, like we, have way too many outlets in your house, outlets that you don't use. Instead of buying the expensive baby proof outlet covers you can just buy at Lowes or Home Depot the plain blank wallplates. These go for about $0.50-$0.75 a piece and completely cover up your electrical plug (replacing the current wallplate of course). And naturally you won't be able to use the plug anymore that is without replacing the blank wallplate back to the original, but if you have outlets that, as I say, you just never use it's certainly an easy and cheap solution to be completely safe.

Of course you'll want to hang on to the original plug wallplates to switch them back once the little one has outgrown the safety concern of sticking their finger in the plug.
posted by Steveg @ 11:48 AM   2 comments
More on baby-proofing - electricity safety
Saturday, October 06, 2007
Debbie made a good comment that we had also heard from a couple at one of those classes we attended from our home-study agency. The concept of intentionally leaving a cabinet or two unlocked (usually where you keep your tupperware or other safe to play with stuff). The couple at the class gave a great quote on why this is good for the child. As they put it, it gives them a chance to feel "...that they're able to put one over on the Man."

One of the things I've realized during my research of safety items is that there really isn't just one best in class product. Different products do different things well (and not so well). Plus a lot of these safety devices have different effectiveness over the age range of the child. Our house is relatively new construction and as such has a plethora of electric outlets in each room (not to mention cable and ethernet outlets, but thankfully those are not a safety hazard). So we're using a number of different types of electrical safety plugs. The first is the old fashion simple little plastic ones that just plug into the socket. Now before anyone jumps up and down saying those are choking hazards (and they are), there are places and times where those cheap ones do work. But it is important to remember that they are choking hazards if your little one gets one out and tries (as they do with EVERYTHING) to put it into their mouths.

However, we have a number of plugs that are in areas where our little won't be playing or won't have time to try to work them out of the socket (hallways, etc.). And the key is time, that is time to work those things out. They are designed to be a little bit wider than the actual plug openings in the socket. And as such, fit in snugly, actually very snugly into the socket. They are pretty difficult to take out and require a little bit of time to do so. I would think this is why you would rather buy these things new and not from a garage sale or get them hand-me-down. The constant taking in and out, I think, would lessen their ability to fit snugly so it's best, again in my opinion, to use these in places where you have an outlet but don't really use it. In our house there are plenty of outlets that in five years of living here we've never used (nor probably ever will). And that's the best place for them. Outlets that they won't have access to and ones which you don't use.

But you shouldn't trust those things enough to use them in a room where your little one will be playing (or sleeping) or even for outlets that are in use or used often. First because they can pull out a cord and thus expose the outlet and second because you may take it out to use the outlet and forget to put it back. So for his room, our family room (currently filled with his toys), and a few other places where he'll have constant access we've chosen to go with the full outlet covers. There are actually two types that I'm using.

One is the swivel outlet cover (about $3.50 for a two pack) that in essence replaces the wallplate you have now. They have springs in them that automatically close off the plug holes when not in use (or even if the little one pulls out a cord plugged into them). They're nearly impossible for little ones to manipulate the concept of pulling back the plug (to open the hole) and then put their finger in. So these are ideal for places where you have electric appliances plugged into a socket or use the outlet often or the kid's bedroom. I've actually bought both the Safety 1st brand and the Kidco brand and find them both to be very good.

The other kind of outlet cover (about $2.00 for a two pack) is better for outlets that are constantly in use (for lamps, etc.). These have a large container like that snaps onto a plate that replaces the standard wallplate. The large container can hold some rather large plugs (or even extra cord from the appliance) but won't be able to handle a large transformer (you know, those big rectangular boxes that most computer speakers or florescent lights use). They are extremely with a capital "E" difficult to remove and are not good for outlets you need access to often, but that drawback makes them very good for outlets with appliances already in use that you won't unplug often.

The other thing I've bought was sort of a new and improved plug type. It's like the cheaper plugs but harder to get out and has the added benefit of being attached to a plate that is screwed into the wallplate. So unlike the cheaper plastic plugs it cannot come off and become a choking hazard.
posted by Steveg @ 11:47 AM   2 comments
Who knew translating could be so exciting
Friday, October 05, 2007
The second part of our dossier is done and should be in Moscow today ready for translation. While we're waiting, here's another story of our time in Novosibirsk during our first trip to keep you all entertained.

In a previous post Steve mentioned that we needed to get a couple of documents done the Friday before we were supposed to be leaving on our first trip. One of those documents was a letter from the Department of Social Services and our translator was thrilled to have the chance to translate it herself.

I'm sure you all are curious why a letter from a government agency would be so exciting to translate. The correct answer would be she also got to translate the letterhead which included our governernor's name. Apparently Arnold Schwarzenegger is a HUGE star in Russia. When she picked us up later that afternoon she was talking on her phone (which she did all the time) but this time we kept hearing Arnold's name mentioned.

She turns around and tells us all that she is so excited she got to translate his name and has been calling all of her friends to tell them. And the phone calls keep continuing all afternoon...
posted by yorkiemom @ 2:00 PM   1 comments
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Well I've started the process of Baby-proofing the house. Actually we're going to limit his access to the house with baby gates and then baby-proof the rooms he'll be able to run around in. We had gone to a class that our home-study agency gave and listened to a couple who just got back a couple of months ago (from Guatemala) and they basically were describing their house which sounded like ours (a lot of square footage, a lot of rooms, etc. etc.) and that it made more sense to use baby gates to cut down on access. And since we have at least 4 electric outlets in each of our 5 bedrooms in the house, not to mention in the kitchen we have 20 cabinet doors and 28 drawers (and yes those are just at floor level, I'm not including the ones above the countertop) we've decided that limiting the area he can roam in is a darn good solution.

The wild thing is all the different types of products that are available for baby-proofing. The situation I'm most concerned about is really electricity. Dangerous chemicals and the like we're planning on relocating out of reach and then just using the cabinet locks for drawers and things that we just don't want him to rummage around in. I'm also currently working on getting a wrought iron fence and gate built in our backyard that will separate off the pool area.

But for the inside I just made a little list of each of the rooms and listed down those "areas of concern" i.e., electricity, chemicals, breakable objects, etc. and then for each room made a separate list of all the details that needed to be addressed. I've just begun to order the stuff I need and will over the next week discuss some of the things I've bought and why I picked them. However, I think just looking at all the different kinds of stuff out there, it's obvious that there really isn't one best product to do the job and instead, like so many other things, different products that meet different people's needs.
posted by Steveg @ 9:36 AM   5 comments
Sometimes things don't go so well
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Although I've complained about some of the things that have happened in our adoption journey, for the most part our trek has been without contention. Regrettably sometimes things don't go quite as well for others. Unfortunately we've had a few folks we know who have had some very rough times. And very sadly this is currently the situation for a friend of ours, the Horner family.

There is a rule that orphans must be on the official Russian database for six months before they are eligible for international adoption. This is one of the main reasons why Russian children are usually not available for adoption when they are infants. Typically children, even those whose biological parents relinquish their rights at birth, are not entered into the database until the child is 9 months old (or more). Regardless, this action (being on the database) is required for the child to be adopted by foreigners.

In an incredibly heartbreaking stroke of miscommunication the Horner's child with whom they had traveled several months ago to meet was not placed into the database. Although they are still in the process of learning what this delay will mean in terms of a court date, it certainly is an extremely sad story. Life sometimes does not seem fair.

Please visit the Horner's blog and give them some support and perhaps keep them in your thoughts and prayers.
posted by Steveg @ 10:07 PM   0 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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"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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