Sunday, June 29, 2008

Kazakhstan Adoption Timeline

I've had a few requests for our Kaz adoption timeline, so I thought I'd piece one together from checkbook entries, memories, notes, old blog posts, FedEx receipts, and emails! Note that I'm only including the details that other adoptive families tend to wonder about (how long were your fingerprints in West Virginia, how long did your I-600A take, etc) and have left out things like our doctor's appointments, notarizing mortgage letters, etc.

Click here for our China Adoption Timeline.

Phase 1: Decisions

  • Mid-October - mid-November 2007 - Lots of research. Deciding if we were ready for another kiddo, if adoption was the right path for our family, if international adoption was the right choice, deciding yes on all of those and choosing Kazakhstan because of the privilege of spending 2 weeks in the orphanage with our daughter-to-be
  • Mid-November - early December - Telling family and close friends about our decision
  • Early - mid-December - Intense agency research and interviews with agencies and parents who have adopted using each agency on our short list
  • December 22 - Decided on World Partners and sent in application and passed out our reference forms
  • December 27 - Accepted by World Partners - paperwork collection begins!

Phase 2: Paperwork

  • December 26 - Decided on Families for Children in Salt Lake for our homestudy and initiated work with them
  • December 31 - Copies of birth certificates, marriage licenses requested from Maryland
  • January 4 - Fingerprints sent to West Virginia for FBI clearance
  • January 11 - Copies of birth certificates, marriage licenses received from Maryland
  • January 20 - Fingerprints received back from West Virginia with FBI clearance
  • January 24 - We go public with our adoption plans
  • January 28 - Copies of birth certificates, marriage licenses sent to Maryland for apostille
  • January 28 - FBI clearance sent to West Virginia for apostille
  • January 31 - Final homestudy interview at our home (which was a great experience, BTW)
  • February 7 - Apostilled FBI clearance received from West Virginia
  • February 8 - Apostilled copies of birth certificates, marriage licenses received from Maryland
  • February 14 - Completed homestudy received
  • February 14 - CIS 171-H sent to Immigration Services
  • February 28 - Invitation to CIS for fingerprinting for 171-H received
  • March 11 - Fingerprinting at CIS for 171-H
  • April 1 - Approved 171-H received from CIS
  • April 2 - All remaining documents for Utah apostille sent to Lt. Governor's office
  • April 10 - Dossier complete! All apostilled documents received from Lt. Governor's office
  • April 13 - Dossier arrives at World Partners headquarters in Georgia

Phase 3: Waiting

Phase 4: We're Off!

Phase 5: Home Again

Summer and Winter Collide

I feel like we're making up for a lot of lost time with blog posts here - we were so busy having fun while Sarah was in town that it left very little time for letting all of you know about our fun!

Last Sunday, June 22nd, we officially ended our ski season! Yes, you read that correctly, Snowbird was open until June 22nd this year. And you ask us why we love Utah!

To be truthful, the conditions were definitely spring-like (can you have summer-like ski conditions?). Steve ended up with one core shot and I got a wicked forehead sunburn but managed to escape most of the rocks in my path. But it was still a lovely day skiing and how can you beat being comfortable, if not a little hot, in your tele gear and a long-sleeve T?

The best part of the day is that while we were at the top of the mountain enjoying winter, Sarah and the boys were enjoying summer! And, yes, Sarah definitely did earn her stripes as the best Godmother ever letting us ski while she stayed at the base of the mountain! She didn't come to Utah in June expecting to ski, but even if she had I think that the numerous "backcountry conditions" and "experts only" signs and warnings would have been ample deterrent. It wasn't really that scary, they just make it sound extreme to ward off lawsuits - I promise!

Snowbird has lots of fun summer activities at the base, and Sam spent the majority of his time on the rock wall, which he was surprisingly adept at. I guess that I still think of him as a little kid, but seeing him climb that wall (over and over again) sure reminded me that he isn't as little as he is in my head!

Ben, on the other hand, preferred the trampolines. By the end of the day both boys had perfected their back flips, but Ben really took it to a new level doing a flip with every bounce and laughing it off each time he landed on his head instead of his feet! Honestly, I thought he was going to toss his cookies, but his stomach stayed firm even though he would get off of the trampoline from his allotted five minutes of bouncing and run around to the back of the line to start all over again! I guess we are fortunate that he and Steve evidently share tummy genes. Poor Sam, getting saddled with my defective carsick constitution... but even Sam did more than his fair share of flips, so maybe there's hope for him still.

We stayed up at Snowbird long enough to catch dinner (the kids were that into the summer activities) and were rewarded with a moose sighting after dinner! We hadn't seen one all day and were just remarking that maybe we were still too early in the year to see a moose when one came within 100 yards of the restaurant patio we were eating at! The boys and I went down to take a closer look (but not too close - I am wise enough to have a very healthy fear of humongous hoofed animals). This picture is of the boys with their "quiet" faces on and the moose behind Sam's head. Apparently these are the faces that you wear when you're respectfully and quietly watching a moose - who knew? Actually, I wish that the stupid preteen girls next to us could have been as still and respectful as the Morningstar boys - they ended up squealing and taking cell phone photos and scaring it away. Oh well, at least we got in our first real moose sighting of the year before they arrived.

So I guess that now that you can't ski at Snowbird anymore, Summer has officially arrived. Time to hit the pool!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Adoption Update!

Yesterday was a very important day for our dossier (and consequently for us!) - our paperwork came out of translation and went to the Consulate of the Republic of Kazakhstan in New York! This is a big step because from now on our dossier is in the hands of the Kazakhstani government. Our translated paperwork will be reviewed in New York for a couple of weeks and then, as long as everything is in order, it will be forwarded from the Consulate to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kazakhstan.

If you've been paying attention to discussions in the Kazakhstan adoption community lately, you'll know that there are two different embassies that US dossiers going to Kazakhstan can go to - the DC Embassy or the NY Consulate. There is a new Kazakhstan Ambassador to the US and he's doing a review of dossier acceptance procedures, so dossiers have been moving more slowly through the system than usual. Right now, the major slow downs have been in DC and World Partners (our agency) is assigned to the NY Consulate, so we're hopeful that our paperwork will be sent along to Kazakhstan quickly. But we also respect the Ambassador's responsibility to make sure that all adoptions are in the best interest of the children of Kazakhstan, and if our dossier has to take a little while longer to be processed during this due diligence time, we're sure that we'll survive the wait.

Hooray for moving on to the next step in our adoption adventure!

Entrepreneur of the Year

Last night Steve and I had the pleasure of attending the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards for Utah. Besides being a fun chance to dress up, get Steve into a tux, and eat a really good plate of food (all fabulous side benefits, by the way!), we were really there to cheer on the Move Networks CEO, John Edwards. John was one of the three finalists in the Technology category and I am very proud to say that he and Move Networks were the proud recipients of the award! It was a very exciting validation of the amazing technology we're producing at Move and a well-earned award for John.

Here's a photo of Steve looking oh-so-hot and me looking not so bad myself. We ended up missing most of cocktail hour :( because of a dress fiasco - getting into the car, the zipper on my gown broke! We're not talking about unzipping or a little problem here - it was a total zipper malfunction. After 20 minutes of working on said zipper with pliers and a screwdriver, we declared it dead. We briefly considerd just sewing me into the dress, but instead chose to go with a plan B frock. But, of course, I had no formal shoes to wear with the plan B dress, so after a panicked trip to Target to pick up hose and shoes, we were finally on the road to Salt Lake. The new shoes were really lovely, but I think had the spikiest heels I have ever worn - thank goodness there was no dancing!

I know, all of you true heels-wearers will scoff, but I was impressed with myself for surviving all night on these babies. I'm not sure that the pictures do them justice - here's a special heel-highlight shot.

Even with the dress disaster and glamorously uncomfortable shoes, I have to say that the night redeemed itself. We did make it in time for a cocktail before dinner, and being there to congratulate John on his success and share in a little corner of that spotlight as one member of the extraordinary Move Networks team made all of my outfit challenges well worthwhile.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Summer Fun

Summer has officially arrived! After a marvelously cool spring, we're now experiencing normal Utah summer heat and sun. It's actually feeling pretty good right now - Steve set up the little pool in the back yard, we made it to Seven Peaks Friday afternoon, and everybody is sporting that little "first exposure of summer" sun burn.

Aunt Sarah is in town this week (she's not technically an aunt but Sam's Godmother and our very good friend from college), so we're making good use of our time and nice weather. Thursday night we went up to Sundance for a full moon lift ride, which was really delightful. Mean mother that I am, I requested that Ben wear shoes up to Sundance (and he acquiesced to the hat and vest on his own, although I'll admit that when I asked him to put on a fleece, I assumed he would put on fleece with long sleeves) and he ended up with this very novel pair of two left shoes! Oh well, at least we brought plenty of blankets with us on the lift.

Then Friday took us to Seven Peaks and up to the drive in at night where Ben's longstanding love of churros was revived - how can you say no to a sugar-coated donut stick? Ben also tried several bites of fried chicken, biscuit, and potato wedges, which I was very impressed with since the farthest Sam normally ventures away from his normal fare is slightly different shaped chicken nuggets than his norm or hot dogs with very faint grill marks (as long as the "black stuff" can be wiped off). We had a great time watching Prince Caspian, especially watching Susan kick some butt in the battles while wearing a pretty dress (ok, maybe that was Mommy's favorite part). I'll confess, however, that The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the Narnia that I'm really looking forward to (with The Silver Chair coming a close second). Caspian is Steve's favorite Narnia book, though, so I guess that the rest of the movies will go downhill for him.

Needless to say, after two late nights and full days, Saturday is scheduled to bring naps :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Adoption update

It's been a few weeks since we posted our last adoption update... there's really no new news to share right now. Our dossier is now in week 10 of translation in Kazakhstan - we originally expected to only spend 8 weeks in translation but apparently a few of World Partners' dossiers are taking longer than usual and we just happen to be one of them. We got a really nice email yesterday from our coordinator that reassured us that nothing is wrong with our dossier, that this shouldn't affect our overall timeline very much, and that they're sorry for the delay.

So for now, we just wait (which is so easy since I'm such a patient person). I suppose the "just wait" isn't the right way to describe it - we're discovering more every day that waiting is anything but a passive process and instead we are "waiting in hope". My current memory verse is Psalm 33:20-22:
We wait in hope for the Lord;
   he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
   for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord,
   even as we put our hope in you.

Teacher Ben taught us Duck Duck Goose and Red Light, Green Light in Russian lessons on Monday - we just may be fluent by the time we travel :)

Monday, June 16, 2008


The most wonderful time of the year here in Orem, Utah - Summerfest! Each year in mid-June all of Orem gathers a block from our house in City Center Park for all of the excitement that carnival rides, a parade, and a fireworks spectacular can offer. It may sound silly, but our whole summer basically revolves around two dates - the Fourth of July (hooray for incendiaries!) and Summerfest. Oh, and Ben's birthday comes a distant third :)

We missed Summerfest last year - I don't like to talk about it, the memory is simply too painful - because I was in Asia and Steve and the boys were in Maryland, so this year's Summerfest was all the more poignant. Absence truly does make the heart grow fonder. They had all of the same rides - the Indiana Jones fun house (except that it's not named Indiana Jones because that would infringe on the copyright so it's something like "Raiders" with an airbrushed picture on the side that looks suspiciously like Harrison Ford) and ferris wheel were especially popular with our boys this year. I have to say that I'm grateful that Sam still enjoys the cheesy little rides - it's really fun to share in the boys' enthusiasm and I'm sure that someday soon Sam won't be caught dead on little motorcycles riding in a circle so I'm determined to enjoy our "little" boys for as long as they'll stay little!

Ben also discovered a new passion this year - cotton candy! Given Ben's natural affinity for anything sweet, I suppose we should be grateful that he has taken this long to get hooked on colored spun sugar. In the two days of Summerfest, he purchased and consumed three giant cones of cotton candy, always blue (what self respecting five-year-old boy would even choose pink cotton candy?!?). To be honest, pink would have shown up less boldly on his face and clothing... but that was not a choice that I was given to make.

Sam and Ben also found their pockets lightened considerably by the "throw the dart at the balloon" game. We now have several new treasures at home thanks to that cursed game, including framed portraits of Spiderman, "I Love Mom" and "#1 Grandma" plaques, and an 8x10 of Iron Man. They are each sure to be prized posessions for a long, long time.

And, as usual, Summerfest ended with the finale party watching the fireworks from our front yard. I tell ya, Orem may seem like a dinky suburban town, but the city really does put on a heck of a fireworks display every June! All of the traditional elements of the celebration were honored - home made ice cream in the front yard, kids bouncing around like mad in the excitement of every "boom" and the youngest child present scared out of his shorts by the sound (this year it was Grady). This year's extravaganza was made even more comfortable as Ben dragged every pillow and blanket in the house into the front yard. The kid's a sweetie, you have to admit. And we rounded it all out with a couple of hours of Rock Band! Yep, summer has officially begun.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day

A very happy Father's Day to all of the dads out there and especially to Steve, truly the most amazing man I know. Maybe I'm just turning sappy, what with a beautiful wedding attended this weekend and our 10th anniversary just around the corner, but I've simply been astounded by the amazing man God gave me to truly be my better half. Being a stay-at-home-dad to two crazy boys is a job and a half, and God has equipped Steve (and continues to equip him!) in astounding ways to be an amazing dad. And he just gets better with each passing year! That's a good thing, since things are definitely going to get more complicated before they get easier and we figure out how to be a party of five :)

Our Father's Day celebration was blissfully uncomplicated - Ikea cinnamon buns in the morning, a few tokens of our affection (money for the flat screen TV fund), and Ben's gift of Indiana Jones swings. Don't ask me why, but Ben has been convinced for weeks that the perfect Father's Day gift for Steve would be Indiana Jones swings. He was still adamant about Saturday, so we trekked up to Ikea to buy swings and a rope ladder for Daddy. I figure that with Ben's birthday party coming up, they're sure to come in handy.

After church and Sunday naps, we hit the theater for Kung Fu Panda which was super-fun. We had planned to go out to dinner, but after ripping through two large popcorns during the movie, we had no appetite left and instead came home for a couple more hours of video games before bed. Yep, a fantastic Father's Day.

Friday, June 13, 2008

An evening at the zoo

This week brought member's night at the Hogle Zoo (in Salt Lake) and we took the chance so spend an evening at the zoo together and celebrate some warmish weather - we have had such a mild spring! Not that I'm complaining, it's been nice to have an April and May that didn't leave us baking in the 90's, but it does feel nice now that it's feeling a bit like summer.

The zoo put in a really nice Asian Highlands exhibit a couple of years ago and we're finding that now that we have a connection with the Asian Highlands, the area is even more interesting! Granted, most of the signs are about Tibet and Mongolia, but we did find out that the lynx is native to Kazakhstan and I was very impressed that Ben could point out Kazakhstan on the maps of Asia.

We also got a chance to practice the Russian animal names that Teacher Ben has been drilling into Ben. I only managed to remember elephant (слон - sounds like "slon"), zebra (зебра - sounds like "sebra" with an accent on the a, and alligator (аллигатор - sounds like "alegator" with the accent on the second a sound) but Steve and Ben remembered lots more. Yeah, you'll recognize quickly that I only remember the words that sound like their English or Spanish counterparts :)

I came to an interesting realization as we were watching the giraffes - here we are learning the Russian words for zoo animals, yet our little girl has almost certainly never visited a zoo and probably doesn't remember anything outside of her orphanage and the land it sits on. It's enough to make you cry, the injustice of it all. She just needs to come home!

Anyway, we had a lovely evening at the zoo and even got to hang out with the Kytes for a while! Here are Ben, Kylee, and Sam posing as their favorite zoo animals - Sam as a monkey, Kylee as a cheetah, and Ben as the Pink Panther. Sigh.

Oh, and my favorite zoo animal was the white alligator - it's not an albino because it has pigmented blue eyes, but it's all white and there are only 10 known to exist in the whole world (they wouldn't survive very long in the wild). It was very cool!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Construction and deconstruction

In case there was any doubt that Steve's genetics run strong in our children, we now have proof positive - the "I must take everything apart and tinker" gene has emerged in Sam! Over the years, Steve has kept many a piece of worthless and/or broken electronic equipment because he knew that one day the boys would take find endless raptures in taking it apart, and that day has now arrived for Sam.

It all started a few weeks ago when Steve gave Sam an old DVD player (that had been sitting in our garage for years, mind you, waiting for this moment) and the rest is history. Sam tore through a couple of DVD players, a Dustbuster, and a blender in that weekend alone, always careful to keep the "useful bits" set aside for future contraptions that they will no doubt make. I figure that as long as said "useful bits" take up less room than the junk they came from, I'm cool with it.

Then it was decided that Sam's screwdriver set was simply not up to the art of disassembly, so Buddy, Daddy, and Sam took the epic tri-generational journey to the hardware store to pick up a new handle and seemingly hundreds of minutely different bits. Sam's wildest fantasies had been realized.

At our yard sale last Saturday, he ruthlessly bargained us down for more semi-functional electronic "treasures" including an FM Walkman, the Thomases' old computer, and a boom box with tape deck. All were throughly destroyed within seconds. The child is ruthless.

And now they have succeeded in their first project that actually involves putting things together rather than taking them apart - the mini-cam RC car. And, lest you think me a total cynic, I have to admit that this is pretty frigging cool. Steve purchased a small wireless camera a few weeks ago on the blessed internet and earlier this week they successfully mounted it to the top of the RC Herbie that Sam got for his birthday a few years ago. The receiver plugs into the mini DVD player that we have for car and plane trips and voila! an RC car with a first person view. (If you look closely at the photo, you can see me taking the photo on the DVD player's screen)

All in all, I have to admit that it's a pretty cool hobby, although it has had some scary moments - the other day Sam intimated that we didn't really need two digital cameras... but don't worry, I killed that line of thought before it was even out of his mouth. At least he's asking before dismantling (for now)!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

T-ball Game 1

T-ball season has arrived here in Orem and Sam and Ben are all caught up in t-ball fever (or at least as much fever as you could expect from any Morningstar about a sports season that doesn't involve strapping planks to our feet)! We are very fortunate that Sam and Ben are close enough in age to be on the same team this year, which is convenient for all. They've had a couple of practices and yesterday was the first of the season's five games.

It was a crazy day - we had a yard sale in the morning with our Small Group from church to raise money to buy property for a church in Uganda, so it was a very early morning but well worth it - just our four families raised almost $500! Small groups all over Christ Evangelical are following Jesus' instructions to sell our possessions and give to the poor and it has been so exciting to help another church raise a building before we break ground on our own new facility. I was so proud of the boys for picking out ten video games to sell, especially to see their excitement when those games alone raised $100. And despite the hectic day and busy morning, Sam and Ben had great attitudes and really enjoyed the game. I only caught them sitting in the grass pulling clover instead of attempting to retrieve the ball once!

Ben had his classic first game experience of hitting the ball and then standing at the tee in total confusion until his coach convinced him to drop the bat and run to first base, which he did eventually locate. Yeah, it was as cute as it sounds. But by the end he was rounding the bases with the best of them. Answering questions about which team won was a bit tricky, since there are no outs, each kid gets to hit in every inning, and every hit is a single, but Ben figured that his team, the Goldens (the kids named it themselves), must have won because they had more kids than the other team. Works for me!


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