Monday, March 29, 2010

Blog readers: one week.

***Update: In my next post, I will attempt to articulate how blessed I've been by all the support we've received this week. Right now we are down to less than 24 hours of this post being up, and I'm still in shameless fundraising mode. We are less than $900 from our goal of $3000! If you are reading this, will you consider making a donation to help with that first payment we have coming up? Yes, YOU, blog reader! We'd be FOREVER grateful. I promise, tomorrow I will stop asking. :)

I keep saying that a post is coming about how we plan to pay for this adoption. Well, here it is! (And I'll give you a hint: it involves all of you and that little link over to the right.)

Here's my strategy in a nutshell. These are to be spread over the next 2 years:

Step #1: Ask my online blog community and FB friends to help.
Step #2: Write a letter to family and close friends to see if they want to help.
Step #3: Have the biggest garage sale possible in June.
Step #4: After our homestudy is approved we can apply for grants--any and all grants for which we are eligible. At least one is a "matching"grant.
Step #5: Get creative with fundraisers...maybe a silent auction or benefit concert?
Step #5: Take out an interest-free loan if needed. (Available through non-profits.)

If you read how we came around to this decision, you'll remember that the financial aspect was the one thing holding us back from adopting. I told Trent that the thought of asking people to help us pay for this was more than humbling--it was borderline humiliating. I didn't know if we could or should do that. Some people would love it, and others think it horribly tacky and not approve.

Some of you will still think that! And I apologize. Come back next week for cute blog pictures and no requests for cash. But enough others have seemed genuinely excited that they might be able to help financially. And we need you. Last year I found out that one of my blog friends had donated to another blog friend's adoption--these 2 moms had never met. I asked the Rory why she did that. She said that she and her husband had a heart for adoption, but they probably were not going to adopt themselves. She had been very touched by Kristen's story and journey to adopt. This was a way for them to follow their heart and care for a child, without adding another kiddo to their own household. I think many people feel exactly the same way.

And also, as I've mentioned before, we just had such a peace about this decision to adopt internationally. We prayed and talked and prayed and truly felt God was saying : DO THIS. We honestly have nothing more than an emergency fund in our savings, so the only way to "do this" would be to invite others to participate.

SO. Here's your chance to participate! I'm going to keep this post up for exactly one week. I'm making an appeal to my blog readers and this "community" we have through blogs and facebook, to help us reach our first payment of $3,000. (Or even the next $3,000 payment this summer? Do I dream?) Google analytics tells me that more people have been reading my blog since I started talking about adoption. Would you like to support us in this crazy, wonderful journey? I'm surprised all the time by people who are reading my blog: my parents' friends, my childhood friends, my extended family, my friends' parents, friends of friends of friends. Whether you are a regular commenter, an occasional reader whom I've never met or a facebook friend who wandered over here for the first time, I'm asking for your help. I feel vulnerable, embarrassed, excited and hopeful all at the same time.

A gal in my choir heard a story of an adoptive family being given $10,000 by someone they barely knew who was so moved by the family's decision. She told me she's praying for that! It would be awesome, don't get me wrong, but I think we'll meet our goal with many smaller gifts. No amount is too small. You can click the link above on the right to go through Paypal. You may even be able to do it anonymously. (I'll look into that.) If you'd rather write a check, I'd be more than happy to mail you a self-addressed, stamped envelope. I'm so sorry I can't figure out a way to make it tax-deductible, because any funds will be used directly to pay the agency for their services. If you have questions, feel free to contact me at jen_tompkins[AT]comcast[DOT]net.

And lastly, if you can't or don't feel comfortable giving financially, we need help collecting items for our garage sale! If you live anywhere near us, we'd be glad to come and pick up. We're especially looking for big-ticket items like electronics and furniture, but we'll take just about anything in good condition.

That's all. This post is already (true to form) wordy and long, but I hope you can read my heart behind the appeal. Much love and thanks to all of you.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cupcakes for Chad

And also for Mike, Jess, Eric, Jim, Dana and Michelle. Any other Nike employees read my blog? They're for you too. I wanted Chad to see what they looked like before most of the swooshes broke in half prior to his birthday dinner. :( Here are some that I made for a baby shower a few weeks ago. The baby's name is "Claire."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Strange Milestone

Strange milestone: awkward conversation with a stranger about adoption. Check.

Yesterday we all trucked down to the Oregon State Police building to get fingerprinted for local and state background checks. (Another one for federal FBI coming later.) We sat patiently--as patiently as you can sit with 2 small children--in a small room the size of Carson's bedroom as the overly chatty fingerprinting-guy helped and gabbed with 2 gals from a nursing school who were in front of us. Then it was my turn, so I paid and gave him our paperwork.

As we were waiting for the computer to load (digital fingerprinting is the best way to go, but you still have to rely on the computer), this was our conversation:

Chatty man: You guys doing foster care or adopting?
Me: Adopting.
CM: Really? Someone you know?
Me: Uh, no.
CM: A stranger?
Me: Uh....a baby from Thailand.
CM: REALLY? Thailand?
Me: Yep!
[silent, awkward pause as we both stared at the computer screen, wishing it would boot up already]
CM: I've heard of them coming from China, but not Thailand. Why Thailand?
Me: Well, uh, it was a long decision process and it was just the best choice for us. We're really excited.
CM: But isn't is that so expensive?
Me: Yep.
CM: Why didn't you get a kid from Haiti?
Me: We looked into that, but it's not an option right now.
CM: Huh.
Me:[nodding awkwardly]
CM: OK, so please put your right thumb right here....

I knew it was coming, and this was actually mild compared to some of the situations I'm preparing myself for, especially in 2 years when I have a blonde, a redhead and a black-haired baby in tow.

I'm completely aware that a lot of people either don't "get" adoption, or they have minor or major reservations about it. And I need to be able to be OK with not everyone thinking this is the best decision ever--and voicing those thoughts. I had a great conversation with a mom this weekend who adopted about 12 years ago. I'm soaking up her knowledge. (Yeah--you know who you are!) She pointed out that most people you find yourself in a conversation with have good intentions, they just have no frame of reference. They may say something completely offensive out of ignorance. (FYI, if you remember one thing, remember to take the word "real" out of your vocabulary when referring to birth parents or biological children. A child's "real" parent is the one who raises them.) But unless you or someone close to you has gone through an adoption, why would you know how to act, what terms to use and how to keep from coming across rudely? Adoption is a huge unknown, even to me. Even to my friends and family. We have so much to learn.

Speaking of learning, a friend of mine who is an adoption social worker told me that she has worked with several birth moms here on the west coast who are specifically looking for an adoptive family who already has children. So, the information that I had (that most US birth moms will select a childless couple) is not true in every case.

We found out recently that another couple we know is adopting. They are almost done with the process, and are just now telling friends and family. So, you know, basically the polar opposite from us! But it fits them. And this [publishing every minor detail from the beginning] fits me. I'm learning so much already, even in only 2.5 months. And whether you are going to be an important part in my child's daily life or you are just a casual blog-reader, I think you can learn a few things too.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Monkey & Birdie living together in harmony

If I'm to believe what I've been told, we've got another 18 years or so of my kids fighting. Even at this young age, they've mastered the art of driving each other nuts (and therefore driving me nuts). I don't know if it's universal, but I know it's the same scenario that played out in MY house when I was growing up: little sibling brilliantly knows exactly how to annoy big sibling to the maximum level, big sibling overreacts outrageously. Repeat. Ad nausea.
Sydney is still just young enough that I can't always let them "work it out" by themselves, but goodness do I try to stay out of it. She has a tendency to plant her skinny little body ON TOP of Carson, or touch him, push him, hit him, take his toy or his cup or his snack or find some other way to get his attention without words. I hear this often being screamed from the other room: "NO SYDNEY NO SYDNEY NO!" Carson then has a decibel shattering meltdown, completely inconsolable that Sydney "will want to keep my sippy cup FOR! EVER!!!!!!!!!"
Oy. But they also have times when they are best friends. Then I'm the one who overreacts, trying to make such a big deal about it that they will love the positive feedback and try it more often. Maybe I've overdone it a little too much, because anytime Carson is nice to Sydney for 5 seconds, he tells me to get the camera and take a picture of it. Kind of like evidence he can point to when I tell him he's not being nice. "But remember that one picture? Of that one time? I am nice!" But sometimes I do take a pic because it is so stinkin' cute. Here is proof that the Monkey and the Bird have had some happy moments.

Oh look. I can tell by the clothes that this was the same day, but that Carson may have *ahem* had an accident because he's wearing different pants. He's reading "Germs are Not for Sharing" to her.

PS: Carson HAS had a haircut since these pics were taken of his shaggy mane. But evidently he hasn't been nice to Sydney since the cut, because I don't have a picture of the new 'do.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

We're in!

Got an email last night welcoming us to the Thailand adoption program. Our application and our family have officially been accepted and now we're really on our journey to our little Thai baby. Yeah!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Why does [this] adoption cost so much?!

As I've told the story of our decision to adopt several times in the last month, others seem as shocked as we were at the cost for an international adoption. I cannot speak for anyone else's experience, but I thought I would give a list and description of fees, as explained to us by our agency. Some of these descriptions come straight from Holt, some are my own interpretation or assumption (subject to be completely wrong, btw). Some of the descriptions may seem repetetive, but as I mentioned previously, these numbers were not very different from several agencies we looked at. In other words, I trust the agency that this is the amount it takes to get the job done. If it makes you a little queasy to look at, you are not alone! But we've chosen to look at these numbers long and hard to truly understand what's coming. Soon you'll see a post about how we hope to pay these fees! I'm going into detail because I love that so many of you are coming along with us on this journey and learning as we learn. Hope you are curious and not bored yet.

Application fee: $300

This was the non-refundable fee that accompanied the application, along with copies of the last 3 years tax info, pictures of our family and the exterior of our home, and several basic questions.

Adoption/Family study: $2900

This is what we will pay to Holt for a social worker to turn our lives upside down and inside out to determine if we are fit to parent an adopted child! I'm sure I'll post later about all the minutiae involved in this extensive step. Our part of the process has begun, as we have paperwork to complete on every aspect of our lives, including physical, mental, financial, educational, etc. We will each meet with the social worker individually and also as a couple and as a family for extensive interviews. She'll do a study of our house and see if it is appropriate for another kiddo. I think most of the fee for this study is to pay the social worker. She's the investigator here, and she compiles the information into one long assessment of us. Our end is a lot of work, but her end sounds like a lot of work, too. The fee is due before we meet with the social worker, probably within the next month.

Dossier Fee: $3000

Until 2 months ago, I didn't even know how to pronounce the word "dossier," let alone know what it entails. (BTW, it's "doss-ee-ay.") Basically it is a huge ol' packet of information on us (including the final assessment from our home study) that is sent to our child's birth country, for them to review, approve and then match to a child. This fee covers the cost of facilitating the adoption arrangements with agency and government officials in the US and Thailand, and between US & Thailand, coordinating services with international social workers, administrative/office expenses and telephone expenses. Many pieces of information in this dossier packet have to be notarized, then signed & sealed by local, state & federal officials before being sent to Thailand. This fee will be billed when the home study is approved and received by Holt and the dossier is ready to go. (I'm hoping that is early or mid-summer, but that is just my guess. We've been told we probably need to wait to send out the dossier until Syd is 2, which is June 26.)

Adoption Program Fee: $9890

Yep, that's the big chunk. (And it's actually $11290. See below.) This is Holt's main fee for walking us through this huge maze, step-by-step. It is a little bit more than some other smaller agencies, but not as much as others, and we decided it was worth a few hundred extra bucks for an agency that we were very impressed with from day one (and local to boot). This contributes to costs involved with facilitating the adoption, including background and medical information and identification of child & birth mother, social services home and abroad, accepting legal responsibility for the child prior to adoption finalization, legal fees, foster or child care, medical expenses and passport and US visa fees in the child's country. It's basically the fee for holding our hands for 2 years. This fee may also cover child welfare projects in the child's country of origin. This fee is due next year when we accept a referral for a specific child. The estimated wait time between finishing the home study and receiving a referral for a child is 10-12 months.

Post-placement services: $1400

This is the fee for Holt and the same social worker to have several follow-up visits with us and our newly adopted child in our home. They will see how we are adjusting and help us find help for any challenges we are facing. This is also due at the same time as the adoption program fee, when we accept a referral for a specific child. This step is legally required by most birth countries.

Non-agency related fees:

Travel expenses: estimated $8,000-$9,000

I KNOW, right? First of all, we'll need 2 tickets to Bangkok and it is very strongly recommended we get a third ticket for little Peanut on the way home. It is also very strongly recommended that we get open-ended tickets--can't remember the technical term for those. The reason being, this is a hugely important trip that revolves around government meetings with US and Thai officials in Bangkok to ensure we take care of the adoption papers properly. What if a scheduled meeting was postponed from Monday to Wednesday, and our flight was scheduled to leave on Tuesday? We'd be up a creek. This trip to Thailand to get our babe is the equivalent in importance to the birth of our first 2 children. We want to make sure we have all our bases covered. The airfare will be the biggest portion of this expense, but staying in a hotel for approximately 10 days and eating during those 10 days are also included in this expense.

Misc fees that I do know about (with many more to come that I have no idea about yet): (We've been told these misc fees average around $1500.)

*Local fingerprinting for state background checks: $50

*Federal FBI fingerprinting: $150

*Official copies of marriage and birth certificates: $200

*Paying for a courier service to take our docs around Washington, DC to get stamped and signed by different government entities, so that we don't have to wait weeks for an envelope to be mailed down the street from the Thai embassy to the US State Dept.: $300-$500

*Passport renewals: $70

*Mileage for the social worker to come from Portland for several visits, $ .50/mile x 100 miles round trip, about 7-8 times: approximately $400

*Buying a fire extinguisher for our house: ???

So, as you can see, these numbers are scary. But I have such a peace about this decision, that I can type them out and describe them without breaking a sweat. :) I can't explain it, but I've rarely in my life felt God leading me so strongly in a direction as I have on this path to our adopted child. "All I have needed Thy hand has provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me." I'm singing it in advance, knowing He will provide.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Oh, what a tangled web we weave...

....when "we" need to make dinner, so "we" allow "our" son to play with an old ball of yarn that he found from that one month five years ago when "we" thought knitting sounded like fun, and then "our" son unspools the entire 200 yards throughout the house, wrapping it around everything from the bed to the toilet to the tv to the front door knob to the couch to "our" daughter. A very, very, VERY tangled web indeed.

(Just in case my wordy, witty humor confused you, we=me.)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Baby Love

We miss our family & friends that live "up north" a ways, and we try to get together with them as often as possible. We have a group of five couples that have had 10 kids in 4.5 years! It's so fun for all the kids to play together, but it's also special when we get to have a one-on-one visit. Sometimes I'm itching to see my niece and nephew especially, so we went for a little visit last week to get some hugs in. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures of Jack! In my defense, he moves a lot more than baby Kaitlyn.
Both my kids happen to be pretty interested in babies right now. Sydney was lovin' on her little cuz quite a bit. Katie was a good sport, but not thrilled at all the man-handling.
I didn't have Sydney hold Kaitlyn, but she got as close as she could. In fact, I'm pretty sure once she tried to lay ON Kate.
I love her hair!
These last 2 are my favorites! So glad Carson got some smiles out of her! Check out the dimples!

We love you guys and thanks for letting us visit!

Monday, March 08, 2010

The Adoption Triad

We have received our preliminary acceptance to our adoption agency, and are waiting only for acceptance into the Thailand program (which is the US staff here in Oregon who know that country's situation, criteria and policies very well). We've received a BIG packet of information to prepare us for our home study, or our family study, which is an invasive, yet necessary, process of having a social worker comb through every aspect of our lives--interviews, home inspections, medical and financial reports, references, etc. We have to pay to get fingerprinted and get several original copies of all of our marriage and birth certificates. It's overwhelming, but kind of nice to have the ball in our court for a little while, because most of the next 2 years it will not be!
I've still been reading quite a bit, and we'll also be taking a 2 day adoption education class in May. One thing I've been reading about lately is called the adoption triad, or the three parties that are forever linked through adoption: the birth mother (or parents), the child, and the adoptive parents. I read a fascinating chapter in "The Family of Adoption" about the birth mother. (In some cases of international adoption, the birth father is involved, but in many cases, he is not, so for ease of writing, I'm just going to refer to the mother.) This particular book talked about how many birth mothers do not process the grief of "losing" their child to adoption. Many times it is not discussed or even kept secret, or the mother might really want to raise the child, but simply cannot due to her circumstances. Each year on the child's birthday, the birth mother thinks of her baby, and wonders how he or she is doing.
To be honest, I hadn't given a ton of thought to the birth mother of our child. And when I think of other families I know who have adopted, I am focused on the child and adoptive parents. But as we learn more about our particular process with Thailand, I started tallying the timeline we've been given. The process takes about 2 years, and most of the babies/children are between 14-17 months when the parents can travel to Bangkok to bring them home. That means that the birth mother of Carson & Sydney's little sibling is pregnant right now.
We've been told that the Holt Sahathai organization operates a kind of crisis pregnancy center, and comes into contact with pregnant woman who need counseling. The main reasons for a birth mother to plan for adoption for her baby is extreme poverty, or the inability to parent as an unwed mother. Whatever her reasoning is, now I can't stop thinking about her. She probably knows she's pregnant, and is trying to figure out what in the world to do. Maybe she's trying to figure out a way to make it work, but eventually will decide to allow her baby to be adopted to give him the best life possible. Those of us who have given birth know how attached you become to your unborn child. It's almost indescribable. My heart aches for this (young?) woman as I think about how HER heart will ache. How can I even begin to comprehend how agonizing that moment will be? It causes a bit of survivor's guilt, really. Her loss is my gain. I will forever be grateful that she had the strength to make that choice--even if she hasn't even made it yet. Our deep desire is to always speak with love and respect for this woman that we'll probably never meet, but always cherish.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


We've had a really fun diversion for the last couple of months. Carson took a class at the community center. We called it "gymnastics" but it was kind of pre-gymnastics. I also call it "get out of the house and let my kid run around for 55 minutes under someone else's supervision." The best part was that it was a STEAL! $25 for 3 days a week for 2 months. Turns out that was actually a little TOO frequent for our family, and we missed a few days, but it was well worth the money.
Carson LOVED it. It's good for me to see him in situations like this, because he seems to do really well in group environments. (Hear this mama breath a hugh sigh of relief.) He saves his dark side for the private sector. Carson was a great listener, he was motivated by the action to obey his teachers quickly, and he was a quick study. These pics aren't fantastic, but I think they really capture Carson's excitement.

The teachers (2 college guys) did a good job of being patient with a bunch of preschoolers and challening them.

There were about 8 kids enrolled, but usually averaged about 4-5 at a time. They did LOTS of obstacle courses.

Carson got really confident at walking across these "beams." There was another set that was even higher than this one!
And this is what Sydney and I did each time! What you don't see is a stroller tray full of goldfish crackers that usually kept her going. Soon it will be her turn!