Pictures I hope

5/31/2007 01:51:00 AM Edit This 6 Comments »

Still No Internet at the Apartment

5/31/2007 01:16:00 AM Edit This 0 Comments »
Well day 7 in Aktau and still no Internet at the apartment. Myself, Rosa (the single mom from Spain) and Zina the interpreter all had problems getting on the Internet so we went on Tue to the Nursat office where they said they could get us signed on and working. This was a tiny office with no AC or windows with a desk and one woman to help us out. After about 30-40 minutes (it felt like a couple of hours with us all in there sweating) she got us all set up we thought. We had to rush back to the Baby House for our second visit which was great. When we got to the apt that night I tried to get it to work without any luck. So I waited until morning to call Zina to see if she could help. Well she and Rosa both had no problems getting on but she could not tell me anything on the phone so she'd come by after the visits to see if she could get it working. Of course we had no luck either. So anyway, she will be here in about 15 minutes to take me back to the Nursat office where we will try again. Sorry. I'd like to respond to comments and emails but I simply am not allowed the time until I get it running at the apartment.

But let's talk about Lexie. I hope these pictures get downloaded since all the instructions (and spell check too) are in Russian I just guess until I push the right one. Once I deleted everything but I won't forget that button anytime soon. She has gotten more adorable every day. She's alert and very active. She never wants to sit still since there are so many new things for her to see. They are never taken out of there rooms which consist of a sleeping room with 12 cribs and a changing table in it and a play room with two large cribs and some shelves with toys on it. Every time I've gone to get her and all the babies are either in their cribs or in walkers rolling around on the floor. Two of the babies are severely handicapped so they just lay in the cribs all day. It just breaks your heart but I'm not sure what else they could do for them. About 3 or 4 have what look to be minor things wrong and the other 5 are small and maybe a little bit behind but seem healthy otherwise. Her group is between 10 months and about 15 months I think. Every other day they carry down a couple of the kids put them in a stroller and let them sit under a tree but that is it. They believe that they will catch cold if they are outside without at least two layers on them. That's why Lexie looked so big in those first pictures. She had that long sleeve top and footie bottoms on plus a ones and socks on under it. And of course they must have a hat on when they go outside. Now it's been between 85 and 96 degrees every day so far so I'm not really thinking she'll catch a cold. So far they have been good about letting me take her outside without the layers and only the hat for protection so I've very grateful. I would feel terrible bundling her up for that kind of heat. She has a number of sores on her back and tummy but the doc says it's more or less an allergy to the soap they use. They have allowed me to bring her new clothes every day and take the worn ones home to clean myself. So she is looking better. Overall they have been very accommodating and seem to have the children's best interest at heart. They have a new director that just started a few weeks ago so I think that is why we aren't supervised as much as the other families that were here before us were. Whatever the reason it's great since I basically have her to myself for 4 hours a day. I'm sure she'll be walking on her own before we leave. Today is day 7 of the bonding so we should be done next Thursday June 7. Then they have to get us a court date that could take a week or two. I'm definitely hoping for a week. Then we have another 15 day waiting period until it's final with the court. I can take her to the apartment after that but I've just learned yesterday that we may be here a week or more after that so the new birth certificate and passport can be issued. I can't think that far ahead right now. I'm just going to count down until the bonding period is over.

We still don't have hot water at the apartment which makes 8 days of cold showers. It's actually so hot here that after the initial shock it feels pretty good. Of course we can't drink the water so we buy a lot and boil some for washing dishes etc. It certainly fills your days up just doing the chores. If I can just get the Internet working I'd be satisfied. Which reminds me I have to go so I have time to down load as many pictures as I can. Everyone take care and thanks for everything.

Day Two with Lexie - Outside

5/28/2007 12:18:00 AM Edit This 4 Comments »

Today is Monday May 27th here in Kazakhstan but these pictures are from our second day with Lexie. We still don't have internet at the apartment but hope to by the end of the day. Who knows? We are at an internet cafe in a much smaller mall in Aktau just a few blocks from the baby house. They have dropped us off for lunch but I'd rather get these pictures off than eat food that I have no idea what it is.
Anyway, back to Alexis. We got to speak to the pediatrician (of course I use that term loosely since we have to speak through an interpreter but we sat in the same office and smiled at each other as we talked through Zina) and she told us that Lexie was born May 17, 2006 to a 25 year old woman. Alexis was her first birth and she left the hospital without her. She weighed 2 kilos at birth and she was premature at 33 weeks. She had some disease that I can't pronounce but they say lots of babies here have it and it has to do with being born premature. She stayed in the hospital for 25 days but they moved her to the baby house at that point because they needed the beds at the hospital. When she came to the baby house she then weighed 2 kilos 300 grams and I don't have my notes to remember the rest of her measurements. They said she caught up and was doing better at 4 months. Now they say she weighs 7 kilos 800 grams (I think) and she's in the 30-50% for length and head circumference right now, which is great. Overall she is very healthy and she's had all her shots. Because she just turned one they are going to give her "some more" as they said. I wish they would just let me get them in the states but we don't get to have anything to say about her medical care until we get her in about 5-6 (very long) weeks. Right now she is covered with bug bites and scabs where she has scratched herself and these sores on her back and shoulders and tummy. I asked the Dr. about them today and they said that she is probably allergic to the soap on her clothes but if I bring clothes for her every day and then I wash what she wears at home each night with "good" water that it should clear up. I'm hoping in the next week that will be the case since I put new clothes on her today and will wipe her down this afternoon to try to clear this up. I'm sure once we get her home she'll be just fine.

As for Ms. Lexie, she is a real pistol. The first day she was scared and unsure but by the second visit she didn't want to go to the care givers. We were all very surprised. By the second day she came right to me and was a different baby. Now we were outside which they don't get out much at all but the had the whole baby house outside because of the "infestation of mosquitoes" which they were having fumigated for that morning. They also put screens on some of the windows which will make a huge difference for these kids. So anyway, we walked to the back of the building and they had a good 20 "nurses," the director and the pediatrician and about 40 babies under 18 months laying around on rugs on the ground. I've included on picture but I'll send more later. Normally we never would have seen all of them but because of the fumigation they had them all together. I'd say half of them have serious issues that I could see just by looking at them. All of them seemed small and pale but these women really tried hard to take care of them. They were in the shade at first but as the morning went on they were chasing the sun so they brought out blankets and hung them over them to keep them as cool as possible. Unfortunately this "playground" was horrible. There was broken glass, cigarette butts, and trash all over the dirt. There are just little covered seats and metal poles and bars that look like they might have been a jungle gym and swings without anything to climb on or swing on. Plus there were weeds growing very high everywhere and no grass. I haven't seen a blade of grass anywhere since we got here so it clearly doesn't grow here. Please don't think that I am complaining about the baby house because I really think they are doing everything they can both with the money and knowledge that they have. There is a new director of the baby house that just started a few weeks ago and she was the one supervising the fumigation and keeping the babies safely outside until it was safe to go in even on her day off. I think she will make a big difference in the care of these children. I just keep thinking about this group of missionaries I meet on the plane to Almaty. They were about 12 college kids and a group sponsor that where coming here to work at an orphanage there for 2 weeks. What a difference 12 young Americans and two weeks could make to this baby house. I am going to see what I can do when I get home.

Now back to Lexie. She was so happy and full of herself on Saturday it was like meeting a completely different child. She was climbing all over me and anything she could get her hands on. Laughing and bouncing around outside. Then in the afternoon we were back in the "music" room, which is a large room with two throw rugs, lots of folding chairs, a piano, little kids drums and tambourines and some stuffed animals. I put her down on the rug and away she went. She can crawl really well and likes to explore everything. She can also walk if I hold her hands. I'm sure she'll be walking on her own before we leave. Poor Kit and Kaboodle will be spending a lot of time outside until they learn not to knock her down. Or she may be knocking them down as wild as she likes to be. She has great hearing and reflexes. Mom would hide behind a pillar in the room and then jump out and she know just where she'd be and follow her around the room. She also likes to "play" the piano. I'd play some keys and then stop, then she'd put her fingers on the keys and try to make them play. I think she's very smart and alert and responsive. She also is very sweet and likes to laugh a lot. I've been sneaking her a little apple sauce and water since they are feed only a set amount of food and on a very strict schedule. She's not skinny but I think she could put on a few pounds. Well see what we can get away with.

We are on day 4 of our "bonding" days so we have 10 more to go. Then they will apply for our court day, which I hope will be sooner than later but they have up to 3 weeks to see us. Then a 15 day waiting period (which I will beg the judge to wave but I'm not counting on it) and then a week with the American embassy in Almaty. See it will be a breeze (I wish we had a breeze since it's about 90 degrees and no AC) and we'll be home before you know it. I have to say it seems like we've been here in Aktau a lot longer than 3 & 1/2 days. I would definitely not call this a vacation destination. More about the town later. Thanks to everyone watching my business and the dogs and my clients who are being so understanding about my being gone. Take care and I'll post more as I can.

Introducing Miss Alexis Falen Quast

5/26/2007 02:39:00 AM Edit This 10 Comments »

Well here she is. What we've all been waiting for....drum roll please....Miss Alexis Falen Quast. Born May 17, 2006 so I just missed her birthday but we'll celebrate it when we get home. I have to make this fast as we are in an internet room but we have to go to visit her in just a few minutes. So I want to post as many pictures as possible. More later.

We Made It - Kinda!!

5/26/2007 02:26:00 AM Edit This 1 Comment »
Wed May 23, 2007

So we are here in Almaty and will be here until tomorrow evening at 7pm when we will fly out to Aktau. Unfortunately there was no room at the inn so we are staying in an apartment for the two days – which we found out last night, this morning I mean at 2am as we were driving over here. We were told that there was some kind of “big meeting” or something so there were no rooms in all of Almaty for us but not to worry this lady keeps an apartment for adopting families and it has everything we would need. After 17 hours in the air and 36 total hours to get here, anywhere that didn’t move and you could lay down horizontally on sounded great. Realty was a little different than what I envisions.

But first let’s take about the trip. I thought getting to the airport 2 and a half hours prior to the departure time would leave us plenty of room for unforeseen problems. That’s what I get for thinking. When the porter at the curb asked what airlines and we innocently said Lufthansa, little did I know that was the last laugh we’d hear all day. The line was at least 200 people long and each person had 2+ bags and it stretched for what felt like a mile. The kind porter left me and the bags next to the front of the line where they had 8 service counters with 6 people working and mom he took to get in the line to wait our turn. Five minutes later she calls me to let me know she’s there and I asked her to wave her arms. Well I couldn’t see her – unbelievable. When one family with 12 people and at least 25 bags & boxes went up to the counter after I’d been there 20 minutes, I knew we were in big trouble. But first I get another call from Mom saying “don’t get mad but I left my little black ID holder with my drivers license and credit cards in the car but I’ve called Angie.” I hear a beep on my phone and click over to Angie asking if I’d heard the news and that she was turning around but she was about 25 minutes away. So the good news was that the line was so long we definitely would be right were she left us. Anyway she drove back, I ran out and got it so one disaster was diverted. I next called my travel agent to see when the next flight out was and he said there wasn’t one until the next day, so we better hope for the best. I call mom and tell her I have her stuff and have her wave to me. Hey I can see her so we are making progress. Having been there for an hour and a half and the family of 12 is just now leaving to go to security, I ask the agent if they ever hold the plane. She looked at the line and said “we’ll try.” At this point mom is only about 50-60 back in line. But the agent took pity on me after taking care of two more people and waved me up. I called mom who pushed her way to the front through many new found friends and we got our tickets with 20 minutes to get through security and get to our gate. Which we did and of course the plane ended up leaving an hour and 10 minutes late. Who cares we’re on our way.

Ten hours, two meals and two movies later the sun rises over the German countryside as we land at Frankfurt airport. Now things are done a little differently at the hub for Lufthansa and I must say having to walk down stairs, get on a bus and then getting off in an underground holding room is not my favorite way to de-plane but whatever. This is a much smaller airport than I would have thought but our 3 hour layover was long enough, that’s for sure. I ordered a fruit cup along with a croissant that ended up having amazing chocolate sauce in it but there was a fruit in the cup that I didn’t recognize but I think it's special because it was on top and presented like “wow aren’t you lucky to get this.” Does anyone know what it is? They do have a great service at the airport that I think we need in the US. There are little pay per-minute computers all over the place. I should have taken a picture but it looks like a keyboard with a flat screen monitor in front of it on a pole. You just pick a language and task you want to perform put in your credit card and you’re off. It was great but their key boards are set up differently than ours. The z is where our y is and I couldn’t find a ‘ apostrophe but anyway what a great tool.

As for getting back on the plan it was even worse. Everyone waiting for the plane was very aggressive and the men are the worse. If it was the Europeans that came up the phrase “pushy Americans” then they meant it as a complement. I have to say a New Yorker would have found this behavior rude. Of course my Mom was right up there in the middle of it thinking they would be polite to a older woman – NOT. Anyway, we finally got on and settled. The last 6 hour 40 minute flight was too long but fine other the lack of AC. By the way no movie, the one "meal" served was a sandwich but we always got a hot moist towel every two hours.

Once we landed in Almaty we got right off at the gate and went down to customs. It was a bit of a surprise since everyone was now behaving very well and waiting patiently even though it was midnight when we got there. It may have something to do with the 20 or so customs officers and guards waiting for us. I must say that the women’s uniforms were way cute and they all had hose and high heels. Most were 3 inch spiked heels. The men who were walking around had to wear these hats that looked like formal dress military hats – round with the little black brim over the eyes. Except these where olive green but the round part was twice the size as our military hats are. They stuck out from the head about 4 inches all the way around. It reminded me of what would have been worn for a Saturday Night Live sketch. You have to know it was pretty bad if I noticed it as exhausted as I was. So again, we are one of the last people in line and I noticed that even people traveling together went up one at a time. Mom didn’t want to have to go on her own so I asked the guard lady standing in her really cute high heel shoes if Mom could come up with me but she just pointed to the line I was standing behind and looked away. So when she waved me on, mom just came with me even though I know they didn’t want her to but no one pulled a gun or started yelling Nyet. It was pretty funny that right after we got to the booth they played an announcement in English that said “Do not expect answers from our agents or to engage with them in any way.” I almost laughed. So the agents in the booth asked me several things, none of which I understood or answered I just smiled and filed out a form they stamped and buzzed me through. But Mom hadn’t been checked through yet so she just pushed her passport to them and smiled and I just stayed where I was. They gave mom the same form to fill out but she didn’t have her glasses on so I filled it out for her and they played the “Do not expect” message again. Now I know they are mad at the stupid Americans but I didn’t care - just stamp it and let us move on already! They did and then we where off to pick up our luggage. We were told not to expect carts but there were plenty sitting around, free of charge I might add, so we grabbed one and our luggage, one, two, three pieces uh where’s the fourth and the stroller? Yes you got it - they lost the largest piece of luggage that I paid $50 extra for and the stroller. Great!! Let’s add to the fun of this long day. So I wait in line with probably 10 other people who are missing something after waving to our interpreter through the glass and when I finally get to talk to the agent she speaks English. Yeah life is good. She said it would be in tomorrow night at the same time (only one Lufthansa flight a day comes to Almaty) so just tell her where am I staying and they would have it delivered. Uh...well....I don’t know where I’m staying (talk about being very trusting or too stupid for words – I’m not sure which right now) but she kindly agrees to go talk to my interpreter. We get it worked out and they hand mom and I a little bag that says “female overnight kit.” It includes a toothbrush, toothpaste, “Mild Care Skin Freshness” I assume it’s deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, cotton buds, Laundry detergent – “How to Use: 1- sort clothes 2 – add warm water to sink 3 – add detergent to water 4 – add clothes” , a brush/comb/mirror thing and an extra large t-shirt. Thank you very much, have a nice night. Did you notice anything missing from the kit? I can wash the clothes, my teeth and hair but not the body. That’s right - no soap. Oh well, you can’t have it all.

So anyway, we meet Zina, our interpreter and the driver at now 1:30 in the morning Almaty time (1:30pm the day after we left Houston according to my body clock)and tried to load our luggage in the car. Zina points out that it is good that they lost the luggage since we couldn’t have gotten it all and us in the car. I like her already since she can make lemonade from lemons!! She is a very petite dark haired pretty young woman that speaks very good English (the most Famous language she told me) and also Russian, Kazakh and French. Off we go with her explaining things about the city and the trip. This is where I started our story when I learned that we are staying in an apartment tonight not a hotel. I wanted help with baggage and room service and clean towels the first day here but oh well. We drove about a half an hour and pulled into an alley then behind a building with a very small fenced in play ground on the right and the back of our building on the left. It reminded me of a couple of scenes that I shot for a film where a drug deal was going down. No lights but from the car, a blue metal door with graffiti and trash all around. We get out and drag our 240+ pounds of luggage up 2 flights of really scary concert and metal stairs (poor Mom looked beyond nervous but so tired that she didn’t voice any concerns – what a trooper) and through another metal door to our metal front door where a tired older woman is there to “greet “ us. Not exactly the Hyatt, not exactly clean and not exactly what I’d hope for but what choice did we have. So she said look around - that didn’t take long - that will be 160 American dollars for your two day stay. Thank you very much. And off she went checking to make sure the bills were new enough to exchange.

Zina said to be ready at 11:00am when she would call to tell us she was picking us up for site seeing and to see the grand city of Almaty. Here are the 2 keys you need to lock the door and do not open it to anyone until tomorrow when she picks us up. I thank her and out she goes. Then I hear “Lou Ann, you must lock the door. I do not hear you lock this door.” OKAY, so this is the safe part of town right?

It’s a little after two in the morning Almaty time and I figure one or two in the afternoon Houston time but well over 24 hours and 10 time zones since we left but we still have to take a closer look at the apartment, which maybe we shouldn’t have. The bathroom is pretty interesting with the raised rounded shower, toilet paper that we wouldn’t use to whip off the dipstick when checking the oil in your car let alone on your….well you get the picture. Those 24 rolls of TP we packed are looking like gold right about now. The kitchen is also fun with it’s RV sized stove and fridge but very modern looking microwave – even if the wording is in Russian. The large window in the kitchen is open with bars on it but no screens and right above a bus stop so we can hear the city very well. Sofas, large TV, which our “host” had proudly had turned on very load when we got there, glass top dining table, 2 chairs and interestingly enough the whole apartment had laminate fake hardwood floors. The bedroom only had one large bed that was strange because it was very “firm” but when you sat down it would shift away from you. It was made up with just a flat sheet laid on it and a very small du-via filled with a very heavy quilt and two dense pillows. The best part was the two towels proudly displayed on the bed. On pink with white bears shapes on it and one blue with puffy white flowers on it. I can safely guess that they had both been in the family for years as they were so rough and faded that they had to have been washed (not dried as they don’t have dryers here) probably with stones in a river stream some where at lease a thousand times. I was so tired I could hardly stand but I was even stickier and I’m pretty sure smellier so I decided I had to try out the round shower before I hit the hard hay. Now this shower is not only round but small. It was like showering in a round phone booth with the water coming from directly above you. It’s hard to wash your hair because your elbows hit the sides or top of this enclosure. I couldn’t find my conditioner and they took my shampoo in Houston at security since the container I had was 3.8 instead of 3.5 oz (I’m sure a huge national security risk – so I did my part as a good American citizen and gave it up) but luckily in my “female overnight kit” they had a little shampoo. So I cleaned up a bit with the plan to have a nice long hot shower in the morning before site seeing. I used my extra large t-shirt as a towel (I decided to save the pleasure of the “good” towels for in the morning) and went right to sleep…..for about 4 and a half hours. Oh the joys of jet lag!!

To be continued. I have to download this at an Internet cafe as we still don’t have access to the Internet.

We Made it to Almaty

5/24/2007 01:20:00 AM Edit This 5 Comments »
This is just a quick note to let everyone know that we made it to Almaty with relatively few issues. We almost missed our flight out of Houston but it was delayed by over an hour so everyone could get on. We had too much time in Germany but made it to Almaty right around midnight Tuesday night. Customs was easy but they lost one bag and the baby stroller and we still don't have them yet. We were taken to an apartment instead of a hotel but at 2 in the morning you really don't care where you go as long as there is something horizontal to lay down on. I woke up just 4 1/2 hours later (oh the joys of jet lag) to find out here wasn't any hot water. I had to wash my hair in the sink and we won't go into the rest of the details but I wasn't expecting the Ritz so we made due. I'm now sitting in a internet cafe in a mall outside a movie theater playing Spiderman 3, so it's almost like home. Well except that I can't read anything to know what I'm getting or ask anyone questions but so far we are just ignored or stared at.
We are flying to Aktau were the baby house is this evening and I should meet the babies tomorrow if all goes as planned. I've been told we'll have internet access at that apartment so hopefully I can down load some pictures and a more detailed account of the trip so far. Spa sea bo (Thank you - my Russian word of the day) for all your support. I hope to have met my child the next time I write.

Last Minute Packing

5/20/2007 09:50:00 PM Edit This 6 Comments »

So I think this is really it and we will be getting on that plane tomorrow afternoon. We are doing our last minute packing and trying to make sure each bag doesn't weigh over 50 lbs. Of course these bags have been packed and re-packed over the last 6 weeks so I have to assume most of what we need is in them and if it's not then I'm sure we can do without it.

I just have to say that Mackenzie, my 6 year old niece, was truly great yesterday at her first dance recital. As you can see she was adorable to boot!! I'm glad I got to see it in person Mackenzie and be a part of your "special day!" I'll miss you and Cody to the moon and back.

I also have to say how proud I am of Casey, my oldest nephew, for graduating from high School Friday night with a GPA of 3.8. I wish I could have been there too but I was there in spirit cheering even louder than your Dad. I hope you have some fun this summer before you go off to college and really buckle down (or at least make it to your classes on time.)

Next time you hear from me, I'm sure it will be from Kazakhstan at a little Internet cafe on the Caspian Sea as I munch on horse meat. Hey when in Rome - RIGHT?

Tickets are Bought

5/18/2007 09:48:00 PM Edit This 1 Comment »
That's right - the tickets are bought and we're getting closer. As of right now, we should be leaving Monday May 21 at 3:45pm and arriving in Frankfurt at 8:45am Tue morning. Then at 1:05pm we take off for Almaty Kazakhstan arriving at 11:45 that night. We'll spend Wed in Almaty and then fly Thursday to Aktau with our coordinator, Flora and the interpreter Zena. That's all I know at this point but it's more than enough for me. Now they have delayed my departure 24 hours before I was getting on the plan (that will be explained in part II of the pre-adoption saga) but for some reason I feel like this time I WILL be getting on that plane Monday. So wish us luck.

The Nursery

5/16/2007 12:03:00 AM Edit This 3 Comments »

First - I have to thank Jim, my brother-in-law, for helping me set up this Blog to begin with. I couldn't have done it without him - no really I couldn't!! I'm now going to try to upload pictures by myself, so I figured the best ones to attach are of the nursery. I'm not sure where on the page the pictures or the words will end up but lets see (for anyone who knows me - you know that if I'm willing to take on some new computer skill by my self than I must REALLY want this child.) Here we go!?!

Well, I couldn't figure out how to write under each picture and I'm not sure why two of them are next to each other or how to download more than one at a time but they are on here so that's what is important.

FYI - Stretch is thanks to Grandma and baby Stretch was a gift from Cody, Brooke and Mackenzie for my birthday last year, so thank you all for the babies first stuffed animals. The little rocker is thanks to Mommy (I can't believe that will be my name soon) because it was way too cute to pass up. The walls are a very light peach (not pink) which is hard to tell from the pictures, sorry. The bedding set is called "Mommy & Me" with each baby animal with it's Mommy. So all the stuffed animals have the big and little ones together. Aren't we cute? Most of the rest of them are courtesy of Grandma, Aunt Angie & Uncle Jim and Aunt Yin-Yin that I got for the baby's first Christmas 2006. Oops I guess she missed it but I hope to make it up to her this Christmas. I got the furniture at Baby's R Us (can you still buy stock in the company? I figure I should see some kind of return on my money!) I have to thank Jules & Lisa for helping me pick it up (that was a great lunch on the way to get it), Jules & Dave for helping me get it out of the truck (okay so you two got it out but I directed you to just the right spot) and new daddy Andrew for helping me get it up the stairs. If not for you all, the nursery would have been set up in the garage and I think that's against the law. So anyway, the baby has a great new room to come home and mess up. Thanks!

Let's Start at the Beginning

5/12/2007 04:48:00 PM Edit This 1 Comment »
Well, I've been putting this off long enough so I might as well get going. I figure the best place to start is at the beginning, so here it goes.

I've always thought I'd adopt even if I had my own children, which hasn't happened, so I started looking into a domestic private adoption, then foster adopt and then finally realized that international adoption fit me best. I was hoping to adopt a new born here in the states when at the last minute a distant relative came forward and so that adoption fell through just weeks before the birth. It was tough to go through but not nearly as bad as so many other people have gone through. The sad thing is I've since heard that the boy ended up in foster care but has still not been released for adoption. He is now almost 6. It breaks your heart but that is what happens a lot in both private and state sponsored (foster) adoptions. So as much as those children need homes, I just knew that I couldn't take a child into my home and my heart then someday face losing him to someone the child doesn't even know and clearly doesn't have the child's best interest at heart.

So then I explored international adoption. As a single woman the choices are fewer then couples, as far as where you can adopt from. Many countries only allow married couples over and under certain ages (some only have restrictions on the mothers age - it's a man's world, even in adoption), that have been married for a certain amount of time, etc. China is where most single women went but recently the laws have change and now it can take years with no real confidence that you would get a child. At first I was going to go to Russia but things started getting pretty tough over there. Right when I started working with an agency, well, life happened. First my mom and then my dad got sick. Everything was put on hold for a couple of very tough years. We lost my dad, which was truly heartbreaking, but Mom, thank goodness, is doing just great. She now lives with me most of the time except when she's off visiting with the rest of my brothers and sisters and of course all of her grandchildren. She is going to be a big help when I bring the baby (or babies) home. By the time my life calmed down enough to continue with my plans to adopt, Russia had basically closed it's doors to international adoption. So I changed adoption agencies because the one I was using didn't have a well establish Kazakhstan program but CHI (Children's House International) has been in KZ for years. Kazakhstan was actually my first choice when I start looking into it but I didn't think I could be gone for as long as Kazakhstan required. That's what I get for thinking!



So March of 2006 I paid my application fee (my first of many, many, did I mention many fees) and started on the mound of paperwork required. First was the home study preformed by a local (well JoAnn's actually from Bellingham, which is on the Canadian boarder) social worker which included a visit to my home and then one to her office up north. Now that I think about it the 3 hour trip to her office was the shortest distance I've had to travel for any of this process and she is the ONLY person I've met in person so far. Everything else has been done by fax, email or phone. Talk about a leap of faith. At the time, I thought I was so lucky that JoAnn got my home study done in just a few weeks which is much quicker than average. Little did I know that was going to be my only "lucky" break when it came to paperwork.


Once I received the notarized copies of the home study around the first of June, we were off to Yakima - yes the lovely desert town on the other side of the state - because we were told that was the closest place in Washington that you can go to get fingerprinted by the FBI. I found that odd since I live less than an hour from Seattle which seemed like it should have had an INS office since it's the largest city in the state, compared to Yakima which is one of the smallest and I must say one of the saddest little towns. Oh well, I'd been told from the beginning not to question, just do what I'm told, as they have done this many times and know how to make this process smoother and faster due to their experience. Yeah, I don't do that so much any more. But I regress. You might have noticed that I said "we" had to go get fingerprinted. The rule is any person over the age of 18 that lives in your home for longer than 6 weeks must be printed by the FBI along with the adoptive parent. Fine, I'm glad to know that the government is doing their best to make sure these children go into a safe home. So off Mom & I go, leaving in the late afternoon then staying in a lovely hotel (the pictures of the hotels in Kazakhstan that I've seen are much nicer than where we stayed so I think they were just testing us to see if we were up for roughing it in KZ.) The hotel is near the INS office so we could be waiting in line bright and early Friday morning. No appointments can be made - we simply must wait in line. Did I mention that I had recently adopted two puppies from the pound, Kit & Kaboodle, so of course they had to come with us. They certainly made the trip more entertaining (and longer due to potty breaks and the night shorter for the same reason.) So anyway, we were told to be prepared for an all day event and you can't take in a purse or briefcase, food, water or cell phone even though they search you and have you go through a metal detector. Well, we were pleasantly surprises to find just 4 or 5 other people there and we were in and out in under an hour, minus $656 per finger printing - have a nice day! The kind of fingerprints the FBI takes are computerized verses the old ink process - for those of you who have been printed by the police, well the FBI is a much better way to go since there is no ink to clean up and of course no jail cell to sit in afterwards. We felt blessed and went home to wait for the results.


I had plenty to do while we waited since I had a ton of other documents I needed to get together to complete my Dossier, which is required by the Kazakh government. Things like 5 notarized copies of my birth certificate, yeah right. I've got them in my file cabinet just like everyone else - don't you? - local police clearance, so yes we got to the do ink fingerprinting but no jail time to follow, a letter from my employer, a deed of my house, a letter from my bank stating how much money I have (which is considerably less now I might add), then a financial statement listing all my other assets that are dwindling, a letter of support from my family (which they couldn't be more supportive so that one was easy - thanks everyone), an appointed guardianship in case I don't live through this process (that is a very real fear right about now), a letter saying I agree to send a report to someone in the Kazakhstan government every year until the child turns 18 and then the child can decide if they want to stay an American citizen or become a Kazakh citizen, if they are a boy then they get to join the KZ army for three years (now there's a reason to decided on a Kazakh citizenship), a letter agreeing to allow monitoring (I'm not sure what I've agreed to have monitored but it's signed and notarized so I guess I can't complain if someone moves into my house to "monitor" us), a letter stating that I'm a heterosexual woman and I still hope to find a man to complete my life (which is true, so hey, I now have government approval for that), a letter stating I intent to adopt (like I'd go through all this and change my mind), a letter committing to allow "visitation rights to Representatives of the Kazakhstan Consulate in the US & officials from Kazakhstan up to two times a year until the child is 18" (wow I have to say I never read that one closely so I'd better get the spare bedroom ready for guests), a letter committing to register the child in Kazakhstan before I leave the country with her (okay that seems reasonable but does she get a license or something), pictures of my house and family (no pets though as they eat dog and horse so the agency suggested that we don't mention them or have pictures of them in the dossier - they might think it's a menu - just kidding really!) Now two of my favorite things to sign were the BLANK power of attorney letters. Oh did I mention I had to get a Medical form filed out by my doc asking if I had, among other things, "sever dermatitis with the disturbance/breakdown of callusing" or bladderworts, or severe syphilis not cured, gonorrhea not cured or urogenital chlomidosis not cured (I would hope if my doctor found any of these during my exam that they might cure them - plus I'm not sure I'd be well enough to consider adoption but it might be the reason I don't have children of my own) but my favorite that I thankfully don't have is LEPROSY!! Boy was I relieved to hear that. Then my next assignment towards getting clearance to adopt was to talk to a Psychologist so they could determined if I was mentally stable enough to adopt (no -you all don't get to express you opinions on that one.) Again, I think it's a great idea to protect these children. But what transpired was a half an hour conversation on the phone with a nice Psychologist that had recently adopted an 8 year old little girl from Russia - which I thoroughly enjoyed hearing all about - after which I was told that I sounded like I'd make a great mother. That will be $565 please, have a nice day! With all do respect to the Psychologist, I don't know what else she could have done short of spending months psychoanalyzing me and ending up with the same results (since in fact, I'm going to be a great mom - if I can ever get this child.) Anyway, these few little paperwork assignments along with a number of other boring requested were keeping me busy not thinking about the FBI fingerprints.


After around 5 weeks of waiting for my approval from the FBI, I did take note that I hadn't received anything and talked about it with my US coordinator, Erin, who happens to live in North Carolina and has been great keeping me straight on all of this. At first she said not to worry that it often took a while but since I really hoped to be in Kazakhstan by October (see - I am a dreamer) I wanted to know if I could do anything to check on the progress. I mean really, they just need to check our prints against a few million other people living in America - how hard could that be? So I first checked with the FBI who told me that my prints had been cleared by them 28 seconds after they were taken (who said our government isn't efficient?) and that Mom's had been rejected within a minute 27 seconds. Yes I did say rejected. The FBI said that they informed the INS of the rejection at that time (while Mom was still sitting in their office they knew there was something wrong with her prints but of course didn't think to let us know.) The FBI agent said that it wasn't uncommon but Mom needed to have them retaken. After I calmed down a little bit, I called the INS in Yakima since I'd not received any word that there was a problem . This was my first meeting with my favorite (yes I'm using that term loosely) INS officer, Agent Angela. Now she is a shining example of American efficiency at work. She told me that yes, they knew that mom's prints had been rejected and she sent me a notice but didn't hear anything back. Now you might think she would have sent another notice or given me a call or something but no she said she assumed (do I need to say anything more) that I had changed my mind about the adoption. I was speechless...for a few seconds and then I'm sure Agent Angela wished I was still speechless. Since children may be reading this we'll just move on to the results of our conversation. Mom has to be reprinted but low and behold, there is an INS office in Seattle and we can go there if we liked. As much fun as Yakima was, we opted to go to Seattle. Now this was a much bigger office and we expected to wait but we again were in and out in about 40 minutes. They wouldn't give us the results right then (even though I now knew that the results are instant) but we could look for them in the mail in the next two weeks. This was the end of July, so Mom was off to help Angie, my sister, Jim & the kids move from Charlotte NC to Houston Texas. While she's gone I found out that her prints had be rejected again. Agent Angela informed me that about one percent of the population actually can't be printed because their grooves aren't deep enough. Of course, Mom is in that one percent (I always knew Mom was special but in this case I wish she weren't quit so special.) Just a few days before I heard this from Agent Angela I had gotten Mom's rejection notice from the local police as well, so when she asked if they had any luck with the ink prints I knew that didn't work either. After many conversations AA & her supervisor (she would not let me speak to the supervisor no matter what I said and I said a lot) Agent Angela decided that they would approve mom if she would swear to her answers on this form asking certain questions in front of an INS officer. I explained that Mom was in Charlotte right now and asked if she could go to the INS office there or have it signed in front of a notary or attorney (you would think they would be a little more official, right?) Again she had to check with the supervisor blah blah blah, but no Mom has to do it in front of an INS officer. Okay but there is no INS in Charlotte. The closest was like 3 hours away. Needless to say my sister was not happy about this as the movers where coming the next day. So I found out there was an INS in Houston and you can actually get an appointment there so I set them up with one the next week - two days after they got to Houston. No one can suggest that I'm not supported by my family since my sister dropped her children off on their first day of school in a new city after sleeping on the floor of their new home since their moving van wasn't there yet and drove an hour and a half to find this INS office. I had faxed them the form and when they presented it to the INS officer there - you guessed it - he refused to do it. He said he'd worked in that office for 35 years and never before seen that form or heard of anything like this. They begged him to check with his supervisor but he just laughed and said no that they had more important Home Land Security issues to deal with than asking my 67 year old mother if she'd "every received a ticket from a police officer?" (Please note she had in fact received ONE speeding ticket back in 1968 but she took the class to have it removed from her record.) Thanks again Angie and Mom for trying. They felt so bad and I was beyond ticked but when I talked to Agent Angela she said I'd just have to wait until Mom was back in Washington. After all she had a box to check and my adoption couldn't go forward until she could check that box. So 3 weeks later Mom is back and I take her to the Seattle INS office again. The officer there also said no at first but I guess I sounded more desperate than my sister because after about an hour of him checking with supervisors (I think he took a lunch break too) he agree to take my mom's statement, signed and stamped it and sent us on our way. I told Mom that she really missed her calling. She could have been a theft or a spy and no one would have caught her. What was so dumb about all of this is, of course, they did a background check and knew that she didn't have a record either locally or federally. When the FBI checks your finger prints they are checking to see if your prints show up in an unsolved crime, so it's not like her signing that form would have made any difference. If she had committed a crime she would have, of course, lied to the agent. Anyway, I finally got the approval Oct 25th. So much for being in Kazakhstan in Oct or Nov. But somehow I was still optimistic about all of this and hope to go before Christmas. After all this was the last thing I was waiting on to complete my dossier.


Now I just had to take everything to our state capital in Olympia and get them apostilled (it's a stamp that basically approves the notary that approved the signatures on the documents) which is required on every document by the Kazakhstan government. One thing that was funny was even documents that didn't have a signature, like the local background check that I got on line, had to be notarized and apostilled. So once there, I had to go to the local Kinko's and sign the documents stating that they are "a true and accurate copy." Then it would be notarized so that it could be checked and Apostilled. Remember when they said just do what they ask and don't question it. Well this was a perfect example. So I went back to the Secretary of States office and told them what I needed and what country I was adopting from., The clerck said no problem it will take about an hour. I come back in an hour and each page now has two more pages attached to it with a pretty gold stamp. She said we are all set that will be $560 please, have a nice day (funny how that happened to be the magic number!) And off I went back to Kinko's to make 4 copies of each page including the new apostilles and overnighted the originals and 2 copies to my coordinator - did I mention she's in North Carolina so I couldn't just drop them off- and sent one copy to the main office in Ferndale WA and I kept one copy for myself. I was told they would review them to make sure they were all correct and off they go to Kazakhstan to be translated. From there they are sent to the Kazakhstan Embassy in Washington DC to get approved then back to Kazakhstan to be submitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, MFA. Erin received it Oct 31, 2006 and sent it off by Nov 3rd. What a relief!!! Finally it's all on its way and just in the nick of time. Erin, my coordinator, was due to give birth in a week and she was taking a little time off for that (the nerve of some people thinking the birth of their child was more important than some paperwork of mine!!!!!) Anyway, I could finally relax and start thing about the trip since I just had a few more documents the KZ or the US government needed before I left. Now according to the schedule they gave me when I started this, it should only take 1 to 2 weeks to translate. On Nov 27th, after Erin gave birth to a healthy baby girl and she was back at work again, God Bless her, I email to see if she had any news on the dossier. On Dec 4th she said the dossier was translated and back in the states. They would present it the next day to the Kazakhstan Embassy and it should be released in two weeks. Great news because we really needed it to be out of DC before the holidays so it wouldn't just sit there. So Dec 5th I get a long email from Erin and then a phone call saying that the dossier has been rejected because that nice woman at the Sec of States office put Certificates of Authenticity not Apostilles on all of my documents. So I have to get the correct Apostilles then send it back to Erin who will send it back to Kazakhstan for translation and then back to DC for approval. Erin said she'd never had this happen before - just like she had never had any ones prints rejected unless they were actually criminals not Grandmas with small grooves in their fingers. Unbelievable!!! Needless to say I was a little upset. I mean isn't that why you hire an agency to make sure these kinds of mistakes don't happen? Erin is from North Carolina and she deals with people from all over the country so doesn't know what a Washington State Apostille looks like (each state has their own) but the Ferndale WA office got a copy and should have looked at them. Plus Erin said when she talked to the WA office that they had had this problem before and they had a letter they meant to give to anyone going down to get their apostilles in Washington state. We'll the fact that they could have prevented this really sent me through the roof. But whining about it doesn't get it done. So anyway, the DC agent was overnighting it to Erin, who was going to take it apart - evidentally the Kazakhs put ribbons and stamps all over them - so she had to take all that off before she could send it on to me. It was a Thursday when I heard so I knew I wouldn't get it before Monday if I was lucky. Anyway, I called around and found the lady that "helped" me before (thank goodness I made a copy of everything) and told her what happened. She said and I quote "Bummer" but she'd be happy to replace them on the copies (that way I wouldn't have to wait on the originals being mailed) if I drove on down tomorrow (it was after 4 so I couldn't make it in time) and she wouldn't even charge me. Like that was going to happen! So I rearranged my schedule (I did mention that I was actually working during all of this and that I don't live off a trust fund like everyones favorite heiress Pairs Hilton) and drove down, got them re-apostilled or should I say correctly apostilled, had 4 more copies made (by the way it's over 60 pages without the apostilles) and overnighted to Erin. She got them off but heard nothing before the holidays. But on Dec 26th she emailed to say they were in DC and would be presented tomorrow and hoped they'd be released in two weeks. So then I hear nothing until Jan 17th when Erin hears that the dossier is actually already back in Kazakhstan and being submitted to the MFA, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. That's great news!! She said they hoped to be looking at referrals for a child by mid Feb and I'd travel soon after that. She sent me the travel info and tells me to get my hand carry documents in order (yes they want more documents that have to be dated last minute and of course apostilled) and start getting ready to leave. Wow I finally get a break - I think!!!


Next on Feb 13th I hear from Erin that Svetlana, the international adoption coordinator for all of Kazakhstan, is thinking of sending me to Aktau, a city on the Caspian Sea that has just opened up for international adoption. Of course, I've looked into most of the areas where other families have adopted from so I'll have an idea of what to expect. But since no families have been there for supposedly a dozen years, I can't find anything out other then general information. Oh well, I'm good to go - sign me up - I'm outta here!!! Then more good news. My dossier is being submitted to the MOE, Ministry of Education, the last stop before I can leave. They will review my dossier and then issue the famous LOI, Letter of Invitation, to come to their country to adopt. I found out that I'm in a group of four families with CHI that have been approved basically at the same time. They are sending the other 3 families up north to Uralsk on the Russian border and me to Aktau along with another family that was supposed to leave just a week or so before me and they were leaving the following week. So that means I could be leaving in just a few weeks. WOW, what a rush. Of course, I had 9 deals in escrow (I'm a real estate agent) so work was crazy but I would manage no matter what happened. I remember wishing that I wouldn't have to leave before Mar 10th when my last deal would close. Be careful what you wish for!! One of the items I had to take care of was to update my medical and employment letters, have them notarized and you guessed it apostilled. So I go back to see my doc who thankfully tells me I haven't caught Leprosy or had any uncured sexually transmitted diseases in the last 6 months. That was a load off my mind. Then I'm off once again to the Sec of States to give them more money in exchange for little gold stamps. I completed those tasks along with the 11 other hand carry documents that I have guessed it, hand carry on the trip. Another item I was told to check on was to make sure the US Embassy in Almaty Kazakhstan had the documents from the Washington state INS stating that I had been pre-approved for adoption. I sent off my email requesting confirmation that they had received it and.....drum roll please...of course they didn't have them. I'm told to check with the INS office I'd originally gone to. And you thought I was done with Agent Angela (and believe me so did I.) So I called her and at first she doesn't know why they wouldn't have gotten it but she agreed to check it out for me. Later she calls me back to say that I'd check a box (yes one of her famous boxes) so they didn't send it to the Embassy. Now I have to ask, if it's not sent to the embassy can I complete my adoption. Well, no I can't. Then why would she not ask if I had made a mistake or something by checking that little box? For that matter, why is the box there in the first place? I did mention that international adoptions is all she does, right? This is her job. She actually gets paid to do this so that makes her a PROFESSIONAL. Anyway, we finally clear up the mystery that I do in fact want to adopt and she sends it off to the embassy. I hope working with the Kazakh government employees proves more successful.


Now I think I mentioned the last thing I needed was a LOI from the MOE to get OTP (On The Plane.) Well, I got an email from Erin at the end of Feb that the MOE is on the move. They are moving offices so they were NOT issuing any LOI's until further notice. So it IS just like working with the American government. My biggest concern was that they were moving to the new capital of the country in Astina from Almaty where they and the American Embassy are located right now. I mean, if your moving down the hall it's one thing but to move 500 miles across the country, I could be looking at leaving in 2008. Come to find out they were moving to a building across the street (not as bad as across the country but I was really hoping it would be to the office next door.) So I'm on hold until further notice. The family that was supposed to leave for Aktau on Feb 23 (Joe & Stephanie) also can't leave but I hear a week later that things are back up and running. So they should leave by March 7th and they hope to have more information on children for me and when I can leave. Hopefully just a week after Steph & Joe. Well they do leave on the 7th but me they just don't know yet.

On that note, I think I'll stop for now and resume the rest of the tale later. Thanks for putting up with the long winded prose for those of you that stuck around.