Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Cute kids not included

Speaking of a group effort, our community has been incredibly generous.  If you head on over to my Facebook, I will slowly be showing some of our one of a kind items for our silent auction.

This is one.  A Guinness snowboard.  Generously donated by our local Liquors 44.  It was this or a Budweiser couch.  I didn't think we had the right crowd for the couch.

Cute kids not included.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Group Effort

There are many people who can do big things, but there are very few people who will do the small things. Mother Teresa

As anyone who has adopted can attest, adopting these two kiddos from Bulgaria is a huge undertaking. 

There are documents that need to be scared up (usually ordered in triplicate) and documents that need to be notarized and documents that we forgot to bring the first time so we have to go back and get them notarized and documents that need to be scanned & emailed and documents that need to be sent in the original form because somebody needs to see a real signature and documents that need to be sent in because somebody needs to see the notarization & needs a money order (because a check won't do) goes on from there.

Then there is the fundraising. There is begging for donations and calling back to speak to the right person about begging for donations and calling again to see if they have decided to donate and going to pick up the donation and there is arranging the space for the silent auction and gathering information on the items for the silent auction and writing up bidding sheets for items at the auction and buying paper tablecloths for the tables at the silent auction and there are items to gather and store for the ginormous tag sale and then rearranging the stored items to fit more items in the space.......

Maybe most importantly there is the moral support that is needed. Someone needs to remind me that this process will not all go down in a fiery ball of bureaucratic flames and remind Kim that just because some people think we are destroying our lives and the lives of our children and the lives of our pets by adopting that this is not really reflective of reality but is their delusion and their problem, plus assure both of us that the turmoil in the Bulgarian government will all just blow over (and even if it doesn't we can't do anything about it anyway so why fret?)

So there is plenty to do and Kim and I definitely couldn't do it alone. We have had help and support from so many people - those we are related to, those we've known for years, those we've never met. People have donated time and energy and ideas and money and goods and service and tons of moral support - I know that without the moral support - especially early on - this would have been a much more difficult task.

So I have to say a huge HUGE "Thanks" to everyone out there who has done something or given something or told someone else about this or prayed or told us it was something that needed to be done. We are all carrying this load and working together to do this and you are truly appreciated.

I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things. ― Mother Teresa

Monday, February 25, 2013


This is Nate here again.....

Yesterday, right about the time that Jericho was reinterpreting the line "Why can't the English teach their children how to speak" from My Fair Lady as "Why can't the English beat their children" (probably won't mention that to the home study agency), our online auction of a few items from our larger silent auction was ending.  It was far more successful than I ever imagined it would be, and we raised $727 from auctioning the items (this includes $28 of people paying above what they actually bid). 

We also received $35 in donations from people who weren't bidding - $762 closer to getting these kiddos home.

Now, most people are shocked to learn that to adopt a child from Bulgaria is one of the least expensive options for international adoption, averaging at the low, low price of just $25,000 (for us, adopting the second child is not twice as expensive, it is actually "only" an extra $4,800 plus airfare back to the US).

After people recover from this fact, they usually ask why it is so expensive to adopt children who are in an institution and could use a home. Well, it is high, I admit. 

At the same time, there has to be a system set up so that these children are looked after and don't end up being abused or exploited. Yes, it is expensive, I have no clue how to make it less expensive, and the alternative would be worse. Plus the people involved doing this work (our adoption agency and our home study agency for example) are working their tails off and not getting rich for sure. The cost of answering our daily barrage of emails alone is estimated by the US Department of Commerce at well over $2.3B for these adoptions.

So what does this exactly buy us?  Mostly, lots and lots of documents.  Some confirming that I and Kim and the kids were born, some confirming that we haven't been charged with abusing children in all the states we've lived in since we turned 18 (bet you can't guess them all - we each have one that the other hasn't lived in - five each. Massachusetts is the no-brainer so you can have that one.....), and one confirming we were married which will hopefully arrive without issue, but it was filed in Manhattan, and the only place I fear that is more likely to bring paperwork to a screeching halt than Manhattan is New Jersey (hint, hint and another hint,  hint for those guessing the states).

To be specific, we've spent so far (drum roll please):

Application fee for Home Study agency: $250
Fee from Home Study agency: $2,250 
Commitment fee with Adoption Agency: $3,500 (holds the kiddos for us for six months while we get our paperwork together)
Birth certificates (3 certified copies each): $201 - YIPPEE! NOW I KNOW WE WERE BORN!
Marriage certificate (3 certified copies): $65
Notarizations so far: $55
Application for passports for Kim and Nate (coming this week): $270
Fingerprinting and FBI background check for Kim, Nate & Lucas (he's almost 18): $150

For a grand total so far of $6741. Other expenses include traveling to Bulgaria, eating in Bulgaria, other things I'm blocking out so I don't become overwhelmed.

Typing it makes me tired.  I just keep the paperwork rolling.  

Well, gotta run, I have to go call the court in the town I grew up in for records of that time I was arrested as a juvie, to see if they have any records of it they can send me, because although it has been expunged from my "record", it will show up on the FBI report, requiring an explanation for the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice. Whoever said that crime doesn't pay must have realized that while gathering paperwork for an adoption.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

the pin, the iPod,and the Charbucks

Right after posting about our finances two days ago, we had a slew of donations come in totaling over $1,150. This included $2.09 donated by our youngest son Jericho. He received the $2 from his grandmother for Valentine's Day and had squirreled away the 9 pennies somewhere in the house.

I must give a huge "Thank You" to all of you who have joined us in our insanity and donated to this cause  - without your support, none of this craziness would have a chance.

"How is this crazy?" you may wonder.  Well, apparently we are all off our rockers, because while we  have money that we could spend on ourselves, we give it to others.

I have heard from people who are incredulous that we would prioritize another human over our own desire to have stuff  (including one very nice person who asked my 13 year-old son if he was sure he'd prefer a sibling over money to spend on "gadgets").

When I reflect on my mental condition, I keep flashing to that scene in Schindler's List where Oscar Schindler grips his gold Nazi party pin and laments over the lives he could have saved if he'd only sold it. Maybe he was nuts?

And sure, you can argue that one pin, one iPod, one cup of Charbucks - it's all a drop in the bucket.
And yes, you can make the case that you or I or Schindler aren't responsible for anyone but ourselves. Not legally obligated. This position is a rational one. I get that.

But there are these two kids in Bulgaria that I found out about. I owe them nothing. Nor do I owe anything to the countless others that I cannot help. So if you connect the dots you can see that not only do I not owe them anything, but also that these two kids in Bulgaria are drops in the aforementioned bucket

Unless you are crazy like me and just don't buy that.

First, I don't think the point of being here is to have "stuff" nor is choosing not to get more stuff a form of masochistic self-denial (and for the record, my kids have "stuff". I have "stuff". I see "stuff" being given away and thrown away at the Leverett dump, I see "stuff" on eBay, and I see "stuff" many places in between - and it's all "stuff" that someone had to have.)

Another Jericho Favorite:
Early Plumbers
Second, if we know something wrong is happening and do nothing about it, we are complicit in the act. That's place I came to with these two  kiddos - I knew they were there, living in conditions I wouldn't want my other kids to live under, and I knew I could help them and not to was cowardice. I wasn't doing it because I really couldn't, I was doing it because it made me uncomfortable and because I was being selfish.

Third, there are no human drops in the bucket. Do you consider yourself expendable? Your kids?

It's that simple.  We made a decision for these two kids, our very own not-drops in the bucket. We skip that new iPod or don't "treat" ourselves to some other "stuff" not to suffer and not to be saints, but because Kim and I have decided that these two  kids in Bulgaria are ours, and we aren't willing to forget or ignore them.  It's really that simple.

Romani in Europe

Nate here....

Our Nellie (Anelya; the Nellster - pronounced "the Nellstah") is Romani.

I knew very little of the Romani (also known as "Roma" or "Gypsies") and have been studying up on them, so I was pleasantly surprised when the Multicultural Film Festival at our local university featured a film on the integration of a group of Romani students into a Romanian school.

The movie, Our School, was engaging and thought provoking. It did an excellent job of letting viewers get close to the Romani children, and didn't simply demonize the Romanian teachers and officials, despite the fact that they were acting pretty ugly.

The biggest take away for me was that we are all like the fish that don't see the water they swim in. The Romanians thought they were being kind to the Romani and not racist at all, but to an outsider it was obvious   that they were. During the filming the EU ruled that "separate but equal" schools for the Romani were illegal (very Brown v. Board of Education - just decades later and in Europe), which made this institutionalized racism even more apparent.

The director was there and answered questions about growing up in Romania and not realizing that this discrimination was going on.  If you can find it definitely watch it, and if nothing else check out this clip.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Our boy

Just to clear up any confusion, it is NOT double to adopt two.  Only a *minimal* program fee, paperwork fee, and a plane ticket home.

For a life with this sweet boy?


Two priceless treasures.  How did we get so lucky?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Finances

My husband  The greatest person I've ever known Nate writes (and edits) today:

No fiscal cliffs or sequesters here people, although I am thinking of not paying for things I've already purchased on credit and trying to pitch it to the larger world as a bold move for fiscal responsibility.

It is noteworthy that right now it is warmer in Leverett by an entire degree than in Sofia,  Bulgaria, which usually isn't the case.

This post is late because I have  been busy working on consulting work that began to pile up as soon as we committed to adopting. This work is unpredictable and we really needed it to  help us with adoption expenses and it just appeared - kind of like Nellie and Marin.

Financial report UPDATE as of February 15, 2013

As of the 2/1/2013, we had raised a total of $1,941.15.

Since then we have earned:

From Ebay/Amazon Selling:  $259.63

Donations to FoFundMe: $550.00

Cash/Checks: $200.00

For a NEW grand total of $2950.78

That's a little over $1000 in two weeks!!!  

Next up is our Silent Auction on March 16th.  There will be more information on some of the great items for auction that day coming up over the next few weeks.

Thanks to all who contributed so far!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The process continued...

1/20/13 People start giving car loads of items to our tag sale.  I put the best on Ebay and we start making money that way
1/25/13  Our priest says he would like to put our flyer in our newsletter.
1/26/13  The Hampshire Gazette interviews us for a story.
2/1/13 The newsletter is out, our church includes our family in their prayers, people we have never met encourage us, pray for us, and send donations.
2/13/13 Our Springfield Republican story comes out online and in print.
2/14/13 We commit to ANOTHER child to come home with Nellie!  (details to follow...)

The process so far...

The process so far….
·         2/1/12 I start to read blogs by mothers who have adopted from Bulgaria.
·         5/1/12 I watch the BBC documentary Bulgaria's Abandoned Children on YouTube. We fall in love with a little blind boy in the video.   We ask the director of Reece's Rainbow to find him.  No luck.  Another precious child grew up without a family.  Our decade long call to adopt turns into a SHOUT from God! 
·         12/10/12  God presents an example of incredible generosity: our church’s giving tree. 
·         12/12/12  We start watching Reece's Rainbow for kids we think we might adopt.  Nate responds to my emails with pictures of cute kids with lukewarm interest.  None seem quite right. 
·         12/20/12  We pray and pray.  God lets us know that an older girl would be right for our family.
·         12/21/12  God presents us with N on Reece's Rainbow  I email the director immediately.  The same day our adoption coordinator Shelley sends us pictures and a psychological report on N.  Our precious daughter!  There is no doubt in our minds. 
·         12/25/12 I share my heart with my best friend and children's Godmother.  She encourages me.
·         12/29/12  We started writing flyers and brainstorming fundraising ideas. 
·         1/1/13  The Ha Ha's (a local comedy improv group) offer to do a benefit at our silent auction. People start offering items. Friends offer help.
·         1/3/13  A woman I don't know, inspired by our story on Facebook, wants to donate.
·         1/6/13  After a message to the homeschooling group donations start arriving for our tag sales.  My best friend talks to her homeschooling group and people send items that they could have sold but want me to sell for N's adoption.
·         1/10/13 We sign up with About A Child adoption agency.
·         1/11/13  Another friend (member of the Ha Ha's) gets me to get connected via Blog/Facebook/GoFundMe/Paypal.  Giving people multiple ways to be supportive.  Donations start arriving.  God is moving mountains.
·         1/13/13  We set the date for the silent auction. March 16th from 1-3 at the Newman Center.  We book the center.
·         1/14/13  Diane Lederman from the Springfield Republican does a story on us and our love for N.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Would you like to know where your little Fifi is?

My 2nd and 3rd sons and I have been on a Far Side kick recently. Two days ago my youngest son (the 3rd one) was repeating Death's joke from this one:

There is never a dull moment with kids, which is one of the major bonuses of having them. 

But I've been getting the unsettling feeling that while many, many people have kids, not all of these "havers" are very enthusiastic about the children's existence. This feeling has been coming over me when I see peoples' reaction to us wanting to have a big family. 

"But what about you and your lives?" they either hint at, state openly, or suggest with their worried looks, concerned for the parents' (our) well-being.

Apparently the only route to true human happiness is to do things all by your lonesome and not get bogged down with the wants, needs, or input of other human beings. Which is what all major religions teach, I'm pretty sure: 

"And yeah the Lord appeared before them and spoke saying, 'Fuhgedabout you bald monkeys and your world, I need some space - this is ME time now!!!' Then did the Almighty retireth to another solar system to play marbles with the planets therein." (Second Book of Ego, 3:4-7)
This "all about me" is good for many things, such as consumerism, but actually makes little sense for humans, who are social animals. Being  social and connecting with other people is not only instinctive, it is a great substitute for many social ills, such as spending the weekend buying poorly constructed things you don't need at giant stores trying to wipe out your local businesses.

And if you're like us and like to take things such as being social to an extreme, you have four kids and adopt more. Not only because, as our friend likes to point out, they are a treasure in your old age,but because they are also treasures right here and now who share funny comics such as this one (another favorite) with us:

So yes, I could have more time to search the internet for Far Side comics if I had fewer kids, or go shopping for the perfect Valentine's Day lawn decoration, but I think that is boring. 

It is work having kids. I do devote most of my time to them. And I know getting more means more work for me.  This doesn't make me a saint, nor does it mean I am crazy.  Well,  a little crazy - but it's good crazy.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Winter in Moominland

Nate here.....

You may have heard about a storm that came through here called "Nemo". Now, yes, we got two feet of snow, but didn't lose  power thankfully. This is probably because the weak trees already came down during the hurricane, the tornado, the freak October snow storm, or the other hurricane.

More importantly, what kind of a name for a dangerous storm is "Nemo"?  The 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea reference is overshadowed by the clown fish, making it plain bad marketing.  This is Massachusetts, Weather Channel!!!  (yes, that's the body that named it) Call it "Ahab" or "Moby" if you must get nautical.

But more importantly, I did take photos of the mounds of snow. But they are on another computer I don't have access to, so I'm posting Moomin images instead.

If you don't know the Moomins and Mr. Brisk, you really need to get some of the books.  I prefer the comics.

My wife keeps mentioning that now she knows why she was told that adoption is not for the faint of heart.  Not only is it hard to know that our daughter is an 18 hour flight (with layovers) away and we can't bring her home yet, but we have to grind our way through paperwork and bureaucracy.  Running hither and thither with copies of this form and that, getting them notarized and wondering if we filled something out wrong and will only find out about in three months and have to start all over again.  The last one is more fear than reality, but you get my point.  It is very UNCERTAIN.  And then I find the strangest inspiration:

All because I forgot to get the photos. Too Ticky is not exactly JC, but she is a first rate bo'sun. There's a nautical/carpenter connection for you.

So I'm just going to keep begging for donations for our silent auction (latest item - free bowling [including shoe rental] with pizza and soda for 6!), signing paperwork (I pretend it's the mortgage, I just close my eyes and sign), and trusting that it will all work out.  And I know that it has always been ready to work out, if I just have faith and let it.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Begging for the Silent Auction

In addition to being a marketing failure genius, I have other hidden talents. I am at this very moment, attempting to become a master in the Art of Begging.

I am not the most polished fundraiser in the world.  Now, you wouldn't know it by the amount and variety of things we have amassed for our silent auction event - we have chocolates, massages, paint, golf passes, movie passes, hair products, portrait sessions, and therapy sessions.  I do it mostly in my pajamas while hiding in our bathroom while my children rip the house apart play out in the living room (with an older sibling). It's like a solitary and badly rehearsed episode of The Apprentice, without all the mascara.

Polished or not, I work under the assumption that to become a master of begging you have to make a habit of not taking "No" for an answer.  Or an unanswered email.  Sometimes I push again. It sounds like a technique  but mostly it's because I can't quite remember who I've already asked.  I have a problem with retention.

I'm learning.  S-l-o-w-l-y.

In case you're wondering if you should "save the date" (March 16th from 1-3pm at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Newman Catholic Center's Cafe), here is one of our scrumptious auction items to entice you:

One half-pound of handmade, artisan chocolates by Ben and Bill's Chocolate Emporium.  With a gift certificate for another half-pound.  I'm thinking of pairing it with a bottle of red wine.  Instant fun for Saturday night.

Now if I can just keep my the kid's mitts off it until the auction date.

If you know of any restaurant owners, shop owners, or service providers who would be willing to donate please put them in contact with us.  I may or may not remember if I already asked them.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Tortoise Beat the Hare by Fixing the Race

I watched a short film recently about an uber-adoptive family and in it the dad describes himself as "the brakes" and his wife as "the gas" in the adoption process.  Not that he isn't on board, it's just that he's more cautious.

I would say the same thing about Kim and me.  I was the one who had to be brought on board with this process. Kim was already working on it in the parallel universe where her other self does some of the work that her self in this universe needs to get done (which is why she gets so much done - a great trick but not really fair to the rest of us).

Jericho with Toad
So while Kim uses both of her selves to study braille, write blog posts, study our adoption home study materials, and get tons of donations for our upcoming Silent Auction Extravaganza (March 16th, 1-3, more details to follow), I am still contemplating the best way to fix the baby gate that we got for free at the Leverett Transfer Station this past weekend (of course after buying one, which I am still working on returning - oh no wait, that's the other gate we bought that arrived that I've left in the mudroom for days assuming it was the one we no longer wanted - I'm gonna get right on that).

The Groke by Tove Jansson
In all seriousness, I am involved in begging for donations and reading up on braille and writing this my second blog post and working on the home study materials (and passport and finger prints.....).  But there is what I like to think of as a certain Grokeness to my personality that puts the proverbial brakes on our otherwise forward progress.  Besides the reference in the aforementioned short film, I have read about the same phenomenon with other men who are adopting. I don't know if this is because men are more invested in the status quo, in which they hold a favorable position, or what, but from many women we received enthusiastic support and encouragement, and from men I most often got, "Well I don't know" or at best, "That's great, but your nuts."

But I suppose that is why there are two of us. At the same time I can be obstructionist and controlling rumanative about this process, I can also step back when, for example, Kim got discouraged with her begging when she perceived she was being too pushy with it, and give her the reality check that she's just enthusiastic and doing what she should do for the Nellster (which was confirmed by several people whom she were the target of her begging).  And then she could go back to bugging me.

So the message for her is truly that well-behave women seldom make  history (or adopt internationally), and for me the message is to loosen up.  Although in truth, it wasn't the hare who won that race, regardless of how loose or proactive he might have been.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

On your lips

Every time we receive a donation receipt there is always a personal message.  "God bless your family"  "hope this helps" "I'm saying YES to love!" or "wish it could be more".

I read each of these well wishes with a smile on my face and a grateful heart.

All of you with our daughter's name on your lips.  All of you with her picture in your minds.  All of you with her life, her future, he well-being engraved in your hearts.

Goosebumps are breaking out just writing that last sentence.

I love that in that capitol of Bulgaria, in a cold concrete building, is a little girl who waits.  And all around this little girl, unbeknownst to her, are people.  Prayers.  Well wishes.  She has a family with a Mama, Papa, three big brothers and a little sister. She has a future Godmother praying for her every day.  She has a church community, an online community, a wider community all wondering about her.

She has people.  Lot's of them.  Doing lots of amazing things to help bring her home.

Our church prayed about us last night.  They asked for prayers for the Pope and then the Bishops and then the imprisoned  the unemployed, the oppressed and then little old us and our girl.  I cried.

I wonder if some small part of her knows.  While sitting in her "chair" (this is the place she feels most comfortable her reports have told us) does she feel something different in her life.  Does the monotony of institutionalized life get broken up by these moments of awareness?  By awareness that something wonderful and really big is happening?

There are times during the day while taking care of my kids, or washing my dishes, I pause.  My daughter.  My daughter.  What will you smell like?  What will your skin feel like?  What will your smile look like when I make you giggle?  And daughter, I so long to make you giggle.

All those lips with our daughter's name on them.  Our hearts out in the world.

Friday, February 1, 2013

No One's Getting Mahatmaed Here & Financial Update

My husband  better half Nate writes (and edits) today:

Before I go into the financial update, I just want to make one major point about our adoption. 

People keep telling me that what we are doing is so great and we are going above and beyond the call of duty, as it were. While this is nice, it isn't really true. I mean, it is great to take this beautiful child out of an institution and give her a home and a family, I'll grant you that. And it is sweet that people are so supportive of this decision.

Kim and Nate as children - oh no wait, that's Olive dressed 
up foFiddler on the Roof Nate in an odd hat.
But, it isn't really so spectacular or amazing or Gandhi-esque that people should start calling Kim or me Mahatma (not that I'd stop them - it would be rude to dampen their spirits, don't you think?) This act isn't so terribly amazing for three major reasons:

First, anyone could do it. We are just raising money (which people are willing to give) grinding through bureaucracy, and taking care of a child. Yes, she has "special needs" - but plenty of people have their own children who have "special needs" and as far as I know it isn't common practice to tell them how brave they are for taking on the responsibility of raising their own offspring despite the fact that they are considered different. They just do it, and so will we.

Second, it took us a long time to get to this decision. We've been talking about adopting for twenty years and I know that as of four years ago I wouldn't have adopted a special needs child, I thought it was a bit far out.  Kim has always been more enlightened (more Mahatmaed?) about this, but I haven't. 

I had to read about other people doing it and learn about  the atrocious conditions of the orphanages and the absolutely retrograde attitude towards differently-abled folks, plus how marginalized the Romani are before I even began to seriously consider it. Then I had to get over, "Golly, it sure would be weird to beg for money to adopt a kid and I don't want to do that, I mean, what about me?"  

So trust me, I ain't no saint.

Finally, we get this kid.  Have you seen her? She's beautiful. She even likes music, and you can never  have too many singers in the house. So, how is that an act of bravery or a major sacrifice?

Anyway, people have been universally kind and supportive and I appreciate all of the love, but we all do things like this in one way or the other, pretty much every day of our lives. We all choose to care about someone else when we could be apathetic. We give when we could be stingy. 

It's not about being amazing, it's about being human.

Financial report UPDATE as of February 1, 2013

As of the 1/15/2013, we had raised a total of $1,256.87.

Since then we have earned:

From Ebay/Amazon Selling:  $279.28

Donations to FoFundMe: $50.00

Cash/Checks: $100.00

Raffle donations: $210***

For a NEW grand total of $1941.15

Thanks to all who contributed so far!