Tuesday, April 15, 2014

NHFC video

Somehow there was a rumor at NHFC that I knew how to make videos.  I don't.  But I have wanted to learn some of the youtube features so I said "Sure, I'll try it Monday night and if it works, great.  If not, find someone else."

I'm pleased with how it came out.  They're using it in their Easter funding campaign.  Another volunteer did the concept, storyboard and chose/bought the images; I did the text screens and colors and music and turned it all into a video.


 Donation Page for our Hosting

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Just keep swimming

Things have a way of just working eventually.

The USCIS notice came Thursday.  We're scheduled for this coming Thursday not far from my office.  Once those are submitted, it will take about one week for our criminal backgrounds to be cleared and then up to 4 more weeks for the USCIS to get our approval, but potentially far less.  In the meantime, we still need to get about 34 documents signed, notarized, county-sealed, and state-sealed, including setting up some medical appointments that I'm dreading--it's only to have them fill out paperwork but this office does not seem to like being told how to do something; and adoption paperwork is notorious for requiring very specific details.

And we need a real estate thing that for some reason seems more complex than it should be.  And Rob's letter stating his employment status which, as a non-full-time guy, seems to be a bit hazy.  Nothing impossible on any of these, but all requiring a solid hour or more of attention and we're typically running in eleven directions every minute of the day.  And the seals processes can take some time so I want them to be done asap.

In the mean time, we've skyped with M a few times this week and weekend thanks to her friend's fancy phone.  It's such a novelty to have an English speaker that the whole school seems to gather around.  I think I've had this exact conversation with every kid in the orphanage who is over the age of 12:

Kid: Hello.  How.are.you?
Me: Hello.  I am well.  How.are.you?
kid: awkward giggles and often "How.are.you?" again.

Then I try my Russian: "Pree-vee-yet.  Cock Day-Lah?"  "Hah-roe-show, spah-see-bah"

Jorge was in the passion play at the church this year.  Katie did not want to do it and August is too young, but Jorge was all-in.  He played his usual role of a soldier and after 3 years and a combined 100 practices or so, I think he's got it.  Mostly.  He's still more interested in the physics of how to best bump his sword's handle to make it poke his friend's leg.  But we all survived and even got to enjoy the gorgeous weather all weekend.

In short: Everyone else is alive and clean and fed and sleeping.  Off to join them.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


I do a lot.  I hear it all the time: "I don't know how you do it all"  I don't know how.  It never felt like much and I gladly took on more whenever an opportunity to help someone crossed my radar.  Sure.  I can do that.  And I did; and it didn't seem like any trouble at all.  Job, kids, teaching, students, grading, crafts, church, gym, homemaking, reading for pleasure--got it.  Done.  It just all worked.

Lately though, I'm just exhausted.  My list of things to do for friends, family, crafts/etsy, adoption, teaching, research, conference planning, student assistance, advising, church volunteering, and self-care (hello, gym? It's been a month.  Miss you!  Haircut?  Who has time for those?) suddenly feels entirely impossibly too much.  My post-it note system looks like a ticker-tape parade.  There are never ever enough minutes between things to do any meaningful small tasks and so they pile up while I take 5 minutes to blog or check email (oh, look, another student with another disaster for me to fix).  I say I'll get to them after bedtime or on my research day or tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.  During a call with a co-author today I had to commit to our next meeting and flipped to my calendar to see my next block of time where I could meet with her was May 15.  I'm buried.

And with that, I teach again in 10 minutes.  Useful way to spend 5 minutes?  Debatable.  But cathartic and real.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Weekly-ish update again, because life is chaos

There's really no news this week.  The USCIS has not yet sent a notice of receiving the homestudy or an appointment request for prints, so that's still waiting.  Our only other major project right now is the dossier documentation.  We have documents to send to Columbus Ohio, documents to send through our local court house, and documents to send through Albany, NY.  We have many many documents to sign and notarize.  Some of them are confusing and will take some time to figure out, I fear, and I've had no time to do anything with them.

Last week Tuesday was my birthday and then Wednesday I headed out of town with a team of undergraduates for a 5 day competition.  Which meant my birthday was spent frantically preparing materials for my trip, for my class while I was gone, and whatever I could do to keep Rob afloat while I was gone.  The trip was exhausting but interesting--I got home late this afternoon.  Rob, meanwhile, solo parented all 3 kids, taught his class, helped with some extended family matters, and celebrated a very lonely grumpy birthday (surrounded by 3 crazy children is fairly lonely, if not ever actually alone).  A dear friend and neighbor offered to let our three kids join her 3 kids for the afternoon on Saturday so Rob could run to Lowe's and do some grading.  Ah, the birthday dreams of a 37 year old.

This week promises to be something closer to normal.  Rob has a few medical appointments to attend, teaching his 2 classes, and all the associated grading, plus Auggie-afternoons and all the kids for 2-3 of the evenings.  The kids have religion classes Monday and Katie has a project due Wednesdays.  I have 180 exams to grade (given last week while I was out of town and all sitting in my office for tomorrow), 3 lectures to give, then 180 essays are being turned in on Wednesday (each 5-8 pages long), several skype meetings, 3 academic papers to read, 2 projects due, a visiting speaker to host, a formal event on Friday that requires me to wear full academic regalia (puffy dress, pillow hat, and "hood"), a research presentation to organize and host, 2 different photo shoots to be in, one last shot at collecting data for the project that I've been working on for 7 years, and I'd like to go to the gym.  And I'm spearheading a new student club. Somewhere in there I'll make a few phone calls to notaries, MDs, state criminal background clearance offices, and a realtor for paperwork. Yep, just a typical week.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Weekly-ish update: Homestudies are in hand!

This is the state-level clearance and feeds into the US and international approvals.

One notarized copy is en route to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in MO. They'll process that and add it to our application which will trigger an FBI fingerprint request for us. A yes from them basically says "if you adopt a child that meets these requirements and bring her to the US, we'll give her citizenship". Kind of a big deal. No country will let you start an adoption into the US without knowing the US supports it and will grant the child citizenship. That would be a mess! So this is the next step. Considering we have no criminal records and an approved homestudy vouching for us, this is mostly a formality but it's a 4-5 week long formality.

Two other copies will go to the NY Secretary of State to be checked and stamped with an official seal along with about 35 other documents. Those will all eventually be sent to the orphan courts overseas. They won't actually go overseas until we have that approval from USCIS to stick to the top of the pile. While we wait for that, we'll be getting those 35 other documents assembled and proofread so we aren't re-doing things at the last minute.

Finally: M is back online after a week. Her school was on spring break and she had no access to the internet for 9 days. I missed her TERRIBLY. It was so nice to chat with her for a few hours of intermittent FB-chat style texting all afternoon. All is "norms".

(This exchange is hilarious to me.  Every day she was here, at least a dozen times I'd ask her "You ok?  you good?" and do a thumbs up.  She would smile and say "ok"  or "yes".  The last few days she was here, we were discussing how to stay in touch and I said "I will write you.  I will say 'you ok?  you good?' " and then I pretended to be confused as to how to write-in my thumbs up.  I drew a blob that in no way looked like a thumbs up.  So this exchange today made me laugh.  And that she wrote back "ok" in English was as good as a hug.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Homestudy done (for real? I think so!)

After Friday's post we were on hold.  Our agency with access to the Ukrainian lawyers was waiting for a response from them; they were busy; she was busy in a training seminar all weekend; waiting,waiting, waiting.  Monday around 9AM (3PM in Ukraine) I emailed our agency to see if she'd heard anything from the Ukrainian side about the wording.  Then I taught from 9:30-4:15, rushed home and took over the household duties so Rob could rush out to work, fetched the two big kids from CCD, had dinner, and saw all three kids off to bed. Thankfully Rob's mom and niece were over for the afternoon so that process was less stressful and chaotic than usual, but there was no chance to check email until bedtimes were done around 8:30.

At best, I expected a note from the Ukrainian side saying "we need the document to include these 10 things..." and then our homestudy agency saying "We can't include those without documentation verifying these 7 things" and so we'd spend Tuesday morning requesting those 7 things, pushing papers around, and waiting some more.  Instead, I saw a series of emails between my agencies ending in

Agency A: Please find attached the corrected draft home study report for Robert andJulie.  Once I have your approval, our agency will finalize the report.
Agency B: This looks great! Thanks for making those changes and you are ready tofinalize.
What?  Just like that it was all done.  Documents should be getting notarized and sent to the necessary places today.

Now, USCIS approval is in the works.  Meanwhile, we need to get the 34 other documents in our stack notarized and sealed and delivered to the agency.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Wrong number

I find it completely hilarious that I wrote my middle sister a sweet text saying how much I value having her as a sister and that I love her very much and she responded 24 hours later (in all seriousness) with "I think you have the wrong number."