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We’re now in a phase of getting ready to get ready, a sort of pre-ready if you will.  Our dossier is now in Hermosillo which is great.  Our lawyer through our adoption agency has scheduled an appointment for us to meet the social workers at the local DIF (National System for the Full Development of the Family, or the Sistema Nacional de Desarollo Integral de la Familia) office in Hermosillo.  So we’re headed out to Mexico this week, hooray!  Our lawyer thinks it will be good for the social service folks to see us in person and put a face to the name and file.  We are counting on Edgar’s charm to get us through this one and also his ability to speak Spanish really well.  Siana will just make sure she smiles a lot and will use her Spanish when appropriate.  Which means when she thinks she has enough words and grammar about a particular topic to pitch in!

We’re excited about this trip because it means something is happening.  We’re not sure how far off a referral is, but we’re hoping that by at least meeting us the social workers will move our file to the top of whatever pile it’s in.  Fingers crossed and we’re glad it’s in Hermosillo because we can stay with relatives and of course if you’ve read our blog you know we love Hermosillo so it’s  a win win.  Tacos galore…

On the home front we are getting ready to get ready by trying to figure out ways to make more space for kids.  We decided to move some things around and create a living room space for kid stuff to go (when we eventually have kid stuff) so we went to IKEA and bought a shelf unit that we could use as cubby space to collect toys, crayons and other random things we know will show up at some point.  Edgar put the furniture together with Angel’s help.

edgar furniture

And now we have plenty of room for kid stuff!  We’re purposely leaving it empty to welcome the future items.

furniture

On the nopal front we realized this week that they are suddenly sprouting tons of tiny nopales!  We took these pictures last weekend and in one week they grew so much!

Last week

nopal wk 1

This week

nopal wk 2

And we can see many more nopalitos on their way!

DSC_2921

big pic nopal

More updates next week after our Mexico trip!

 

 

 

 

 

We are now in The Waiting Game.  Which is not the same as the Hunger Games, although we are a tad hungry at the moment…

We heard from our agency that our dossier is waiting in Mexico City to be signed by the new director who is apparently starting today.  With that in mind, we’re thinking it’s unlikely that our file will make it to Sonora this week unless this new employee gets up to speed much quicker than the rest of us when starting a new job!

So we’re waiting.  Or maybe we should call it nesting.  We’re talking (key word here is “talking”) about cleaning out our linen closet, does that count as nesting?  Either way, the referral process is probably going to be slow, so we’re settling in for a long Spring nap which is good because if what all parents tell us is correct, we will be tired all the time once our kids get here so we’re thinking we’ll save up Siesta Points in the meantime.

Edgar now has more Siesta Points than Siana because he is a master napper

E sleep

but Siana is hoping to catch up soon.

S sleep

One thing we do not need to wait for however is the audio to the Adoption Panel that Edgar did a few weeks back at the Crawford Family Forum at Southern California Public Radio.  Click here, scroll down a tad and on the left you’ll see a box that says “Listen Now” and you can click on that and listen to the audio and hear Edgar tell the brief story of our adoption journey: Adoption Panel Audio

Until next time we’ll be wracking up Siesta Points.

 

 

Feliz 2013!

Feliz 2013 and Happy New Year to all!  It’s a new year and hopefully the year we’re going to bring our kids home, woo hoo!  Here is a new picture to show the progress of our nopales.

DSC_2883

For our most recent adoption update, we were informed that our dossier (our big adoption file) was approved in Mexico City by National DIF (National System for the Full Development of the Family, or the Sistema Nacional de Desarollo Integral de la Familia) and the SRE (Secretary for Exterior Relations, or the Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores) which means we’ve made it through one step, check!  The dossier is now being sent to Sonora where the local state DIF will try to find a match with children available for adoption with our dossier, aka us. This could take a few months, we have no idea, could be sooner, could be longer.  Now we wait.  Tick tock.

With our spare time we’re getting out there in the adoption world and getting advice, knowledge, and in Edgar’s case, moderating a panel on adoption!  Edgar recently moderated a panel on adoption at Southern California Public Radio’s (where he works) Crawford Family Forum titled: “What does it take to become a family? A conversation about the realities of adopting”  It was a great conversation with both Edgar and two other guests sharing their stories.

adoption panel

We learned some important information, mainly from one adoptive parent who said that when people ask her about her child’s “real” mom, she says “I’m his real mom, I’m not imaginary.” Best comeback ever. Ever.  Siana appreciates these comebacks as she usually thinks of witty comments 2-3 days too late.

But seriously, we learned that how you respond to people’s crazy and invasive questions about your adoption will not only affect how people understand the issue, but also how your children react to how you respond.  Made us think twice about the sarcasm that usually comes out and that maybe we’ll need to mix in some sensible, confident and high road comment comebacks to use when around our kids.

It was a great event with good advice and stories shared.  There was also a map illustrating all the places people have gone to adopt, you’ll see that ours is the only line drawn from Mexico to California, we see ourselves as trailblazers. 🙂

map

 

Nostalgic in Hermosillo

Sometimes you forget how much you miss a place until you visit.  Then you get nostalgic and want to stay.  That’s how our recent trip to Hermosillo, Mexico was, after a few days we wanted to stay.  Not forever, but for a little bit longer.  The trip solidified our good feelings about adopting from Mexico, because for both of us it really is in our hearts our second home.

We visited this past Thanksgiving for Edgar’s grandfather’s 95 birthday bash.  Here they are chatting it up at the party

e & joaquin

We both love visiting Hermosillo, so we thought we’d do a he-said-she-said here to explain why.

But before we get all romantic about how we feel about Mexico, one quick Adoption Update.  Regarding the location of where our future children will be coming from, we submitted a formal letter with our final dossier to Mexico that stated we would be submitting to social services in the states of Sonora and Baja California.  So it looks like one of those places is where our children will be coming from, so it’s either a short drive across the border or a short trip by plane.

And now for musings and pensamientos…

Siana’s Musings

I first visited Hermosillo, Sonora in the spring of 1991.  I went with our high school Spanish club on a week long exchange/intercambio.  I stayed with a family and we hung out with the students from my high school and from a high school in Hermosillo all week and I just fell in love with the city and my host family, I was all weepy when I left.  I went again in 1992 for another week.  By the time I met Edgar in college and he told me he lived in Hermosillo as a kid I was like “no way, I love Hermosillo!” And he was like “What??” and then we pretty much had to love each other because where was he going to find another girl at Cal Lutheran University that knew about Tres Hermanos shoe store?  Coincidence? Perhaps.  But either way it’s kind of awesome that we both love Hermosillo.

We hadn’t been to Mexico since Tata Joaquin’s last birthday bash, which was five years ago when he turned 90.  We got excited while we were there because we realized we’re going to be visiting the country a lot in the next 6-9 months.  We have no idea how long this adoption finalization is going to take, but we’re kind of excited to have a lot of legit excuses to go to Mexico!

And the food, did I mention the food?  I’m not sure how I can talk about Hermosillo without talking about the food!  When you drive into the city you can just smell food cooking everywhere, it makes you hungry all the time!  

comida

The tacos de carne asada, coctel de elote, the little fat flour tortillas that at one point I just ate with nothing in them because they are so delicious by themselves!  And the Tosti-nachos we had in the plaza may be one of my favorite new discoveries!  This trip got us all psyched up to get all Mexico’d out.  We’re ready, now we just have to wait for our adoption referral…

Edgar’s Pensamientos

Some of the fondest memories I have of my childhood are associated with Hermosillo.  The heat, the warmth, the brightness of the place, and of its people.  A relentless and crisp sun, a place that seemed so modern and urban compared to the rural town in Durango that I had associated with Mexico up until that point.  Hermosillo was my first exposure to modern, metropolitan Mexico, and it was glorious.  

Its boulevards, lined up at night with parades of cars and buses, ferrying families’ like ours back and forth from our barrio in San Benito to El Centro.  Trips to bazaars and merchant stands that appeared so luxurious and extravagant to a 7 year old – a magic that has slowly dissipated over the years as NAFTA has cleared way for the super Walmarts that now blanket this city of over 1 million residents. 

Its street eateries, culinary treasures of fresh grilled beef tacos, made with the most buttery and fluffy of flour tortillas.  The hot dog stands that, similar to the magic El Centro once had over me, have come to remind me of how the simplest and most accessible of delights trigger the most powerful torrent of memories of a city that has nestled itself in my heart.  Its welcoming and seductively languid plazas, (here’s our favorite next to the kiosko)

plaza

its alarmingly friendly and gregarious denizens – it all feels like a full bodied embrace and welcome to one of its expatriate children from a loving relative who is dying to make you feel at home.  

Hermosillo will always be home.  And I am grateful that my wife feels the same way. Here we are enjoying a view of Hermosillo at night.

 mirador

This city, and the mere thought of it, will always bring me to the edge of tears of gratitude and happiness, because it reminds me of the simplest beauties of life, and how often I take them for granted, and how often I have to remind myself that they are at my beck and call.

Our international adoption adventures have allowed us to become very familiar with FedEx.   Too familiar.  We need frequent flyer miles or stock in the company, because we’ve been spending more time at the FedEx store lately than anywhere else!

Allow us to explain (well this is our blog after all…) we’re in the very last step of the dossier process which requires our FBI background clearances and 3×3 photos of us to attach to our dossier.  We’ll start with the FBI.

Siana’s fingerprints didn’t come out right the first time, so she had to re-do them and send them in again. Pause, wait for 5 weeks, then got them back at which time we had to send both of our fingerprint clearances to Washington, DC for apostille.  Because this was the last piece of the dossier dragging behind the rest, we decided to FedEx the results and then include a FedEx return to get it back quickly.

We then received them back (apostilled hooray!) and then had to FedEx them again to our agency.

We realize that is a lot of publicity for FedEx, but this is how we’re doing it and this blog is all about the truth!

Next we had to send 3×3 photos.  Sounds easy.  It isn’t.  Nobody prints 3×3 photos.  Nobody.  It’s not a standard size, it’s some sort of oddball shape that no photo place or even online vendor will print.  So we did it the old fashioned way, we cut them to size.

Our good friend Tricia, who is a whiz at graphic stuff, sized the photos down to 3×3 and then saved them as PDF’s.  Thanks dude.  We then printed them out individually and cut them down to size.

And voilà!  3×3 photos fit for a dossier!

Did we mention we also did this at the FedEx store?  We seriously need to get a kickback from them, no really – FedEx, are you listening, hello!

What does all this mean in the scheme of international adoption?  This means we have completed our dossier and now our agency is submitting that dossier to Mexico.  The dossier will now travel first to Mexico City, to the SRE and the National DIF, and then is sent on to the state DIF.   To translate the acronyms into English and then Spanish (cuz that’s how we roll) SRE is the Secretary for Exterior Relations, or the Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores and DIF is National System for the Full Development of the Family, or the Sistema Nacional de Desarollo Integral de la Familia.  We know that seems like a lot of words for DIF, but sometimes things get lost in translation.

In any case, now we wait.  The next step is the referral, where we are matched with children and go to visit them.  But for now we’re happy to have won the war of the dossier, which consisted of the battle of the FBI Clearance, the battle of blood tests and the battle of the FedEx paper cutter.

Apostille and Gracias

We just completed something really important, drum roll please…. our first round of apostille!!

Here’s how it works:

  1. You get a bunch of documents notarized.  We have found a great notary that’s willing to travel around with us and we had her notarize our doctor’s signatures, copies of passports, utility bills, employment verification letters, and our USCIS approval letter.
  2. You get all your friends to write you reference letters and then they take those letters to a notary.
  3. You take all of these documents to the Secretary of State office, we are lucky enough to have an office in downtown Los Angeles, and pay some money and they stamp a seal on them
  4. You are ready to send them to your agency and then they do whatever it is they do with all these papers!

Here’s Edgar photo of the secretary of state seal where he took all the documents for apostille

And here are all the documents we apostilled, yes this is real, this is not a joke

And done.  At least with that.  We still have some more documents to complete our dossier, but it’s just a few, we’re getting close and starting to feel a tad better about it all.  We’d like to dedicate this next part of the blog to a big old GRACIAS!

Thanks to our friends Tricia, Rachel, Brian and Dan for rushing the reference letters to us, getting them notarized and writing really eloquent letters on top of it all.  We’re very lucky to have such kind, loving and literate friends.  GRACIAS!

Thanks to our mobile notary who is willing to meet in a doctor’s office and sign extra documents on her briefcase while we wait.  GRACIAS!

Thanks to our doctors and their staff for being cool about bringing a notary into their office and taking the extra step of copying documents on to their letterhead.  GRACIAS!

Thanks to our psychologist who did a psych evaluation for us in record time and will take care of notary and apostille with our agency.  Double GRACIAS on this one!

Thanks to all our friends and family for being so supportive throughout this whole thing.

And we don’t even have the kids yet, so y’all are going to have to keep it coming!  But really, GRACIAS!

The Nitty-Gritty

This is the week that the adoption process started to break us.  All the forms, all the endless copies of things notarized and official this and that. When you go to a doctor’s office twice with a notary and then have to go back again for blood-work and then again for a drug test and then again, (can’t remember why that time) it all starts to seem slightly unreal.

This is indeed the nitty-gritty.  When people say “it was hard and there were times I doubted it was going to happen” about adoption, we wondered what they meant, now we know.  We’re in a panic to assemble a bunch of pieces all at once and are starting to feel the pinch.  Oh yeah, and apparently Siana has unreadable fingerprints because she washes her hands too much (just when you thought hygiene was a good thing…) and so had to go and do her fingerprints again with the FBI, another delay.

Yeah, this is the week that is testing us.  So we’re going to focus on the good things to get us through.  First, our nopales are growing and look great.  We decided to outline them with stones that are actually called “Mexican beach pebbles,” we’re not kidding that’s what they were called at the rock place where we bought them.

And after doing yet another set of fingerprints, we were approved by USCIS to immigrate children from another country, woo hoo!

AND, Edgar got his Mexican passport after hours of waiting at the consulate!

 

  

Now we just have what feels like 800 other things to do!  Maybe not 800, but it feels like it.  Next week is a big push to get a lot done as our adoption agency just informed us that they have 7 families on the same timeline and want to try and get as many documents translated (all documents submitted have to be translated into Spanish) in the next month as possible, so we’re scrambling to get a bunch over to them ASAP.

Saturday is our 11th wedding anniversary.  There is probably no more appropriate way to celebrate the event than getting blood-work done at 8am in the morning at a lab.  And a drug test.

 

Siana’s attempt to make things fun…

This week we will be borrowing from the old African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” and will be amending it to fit the world of adoption:

It takes a village of organization, friends, adoption professionals, notaries, state apostille officials and the FBI to complete an international adoption dossier.

Not as warm and touchy feely, but the reality is setting in.  We got the list of what we need to compile for our dossier that will be submitted to Mexico and it is beyond daunting.  Everything needs to be notarized.  And apostilled.  Strange things have to be notarized like copies of our passports and utility bills.  Not the actual passports, just photocopies, huh? We need to get our doctor’s to sign off (again, see blog about home study) on our health and then get that notarized.  We will later discuss how we sneak a notary into the doctor’s office.

And what the heck is apostille? An Apostille (pronounced “ah-po-steel”) is a French word meaning certification.  Ok, cool, just looked this up online. An Apostille is simply the name for a specialized certificate, issued by the California Secretary of State.  The Apostille, which contains a stamped red seal, is attached to your original document to verify it is legitimate and authentic.  So basically, after we get everything notarized, we then take it for apostille and it’s another double check that the notary is legit in the state.  Double double check.  But that all comes at the end after we’ve assembled all paperwork, so there will be more talk of apostille in the future, don’t you worry! Moving on…

First step in the dossier process is for us to process an FBI background check.  And here’s a shout out to the FBI: I couldn’t figure out what form to use from their website and called the FBI customer service number and talked to a really nice guy that walked me through it all and helped me figure it out.   The best part is that we get fingerprinted, again!  And apparently we will get finger printed again again when the USCIS form comes back.  Awesome.  Awesome awesome.  We’re going to start saying everything twice since we do everything two and three times.

Now for the fun part, the village of organization.  I decided to make the filing system for all this adoption paperwork fun by using brightly colored folders.

And also bought a long sought after label maker which makes labeling fun.

Yes, the word “fun” was used three times in the last three sentences, just keeping with our theme of repeating ourselves to mimic the paperwork.

Finally, here’s an updated photo of our second nopal that has sprouted so many pencas we can’t keep up!

At first we thought it wasn’t going to sprout anything and now it is more prolific than the first one.  We are hoping that other things in the adoption dossier process continue to pleasantly surprise us like this nopal.

Hey we’re on Twitter!  Follow us @familynopal

Edgar’s thoughts on the recent presidential election in Mexico

As a little boy, I remember growing up in a Mexico where the PRI (the Partido Revolucionario Institucional or Institutional Revolutionary Party in English) was not only THE political party, it was my dad’s family’s second religion. 

 

I grew up with tales from my paternal grandfather about how the PRI had ushered in an age of extensive agrarian reform that changed the quality of life for him as a little boy in the 1930’s and 1940’s.  He regaled me with stories of his travels to Mexico City as a young rural PRI delegate from the state of Durango (where he and my grandmother raised a restless brood of 14 kids, including my father), and how much pride he had for a party that was intent on building a Mexico that was worthy of the aspirations of millions of hard working people like him.  Years later, he described NAFTA as a godsend and a direct result of the wisdom the PRI exhibited in their management of Mexico.

As the PRI regained the presidency for the first time in 12 years on July 1st, the first person I thought about was my grandfather.  And what struck me about my grandpa’s allegiance and blind devotion to the PRI was not the politics or the policies of the party. What has stayed with me all of these years is the yearning for a better Mexico – one that has never fully actualized itself.  A Mexico that reminds me constantly, every day I interact with people like my father and my uncles; hardworking people that had to leave the land they loved so much for search of a better life here in the U.S.; of a country that has broken its peoples’ heart time and time again.

On July 1st my wife and I watched the election results, transfixed on the preternaturally handsome and eloquent Jorge Ramos, much the same way we look to Anderson Cooper every other November to inform us of the electoral happening here in the U.S.  And we were both paying close attention because this election matters much more to my future family unit than any one before it.

Our children are already born.  They are fully, 100 percent, two little Mexican children. And the newly minted President of Mexico is their President.  And what he does over his term matters to the nation as a whole, but in particular, it matters a whole lot to us as a future family unit.

Mexico, now more than ever, will be more inter-twined in my immediate family’s life. The well being of the country matters to us. The ability to have a safe and thriving Mexico is just as important to the people of Mexico as it is for my wife, our new family, and me. We want our children to enjoy, just as we did, the magic, the beauty, the charm, the warmth that is the Mexico we love. We want them to grow up proud of their native homeland. And to be able to visit and enjoy it as much as we have over the years in our travels throughout the country.

We want them to enjoy the beautiful beaches of the Pacific, from the soothing waters of San Carlos in Sonora to the secluded Barra de Potosi in Guerrero, where the most delectable fish we have ever tasted made the hammocks by the ocean that much more pleasurable.

We want them to dive in to the beauty that is the colonial inland; magical citadels like Taxco, Guanajuato, and especially Puebla – whose cathedral and it’s colossal bells were hoisted by a pair of angels who made the architectural miracle a reality.

We want them to experience the Diego Rivera mural in Cuernavaca, and stand in awe of the history the painting captures. We want them to taste the exquisite street churros in the plaza, with the chocolate filling, the ones that make you forget for two minutes that anything else is more important.

We want them to stand in awe of the colossal Olmec heads we saw in Xalapa – a jewel of a garden city nestled in the mountains of Veracruz – filled with jungle and rain forest perfect for the delicious cafecito that awaits as you listen to the marimba and Caribbean infused music of the region.

We want all of this for our children and for us, this new family.  And that is why we paid close attention on July 1st.  This new Mexico matters to us.  And we hope for its growth and well-being, as much as our children’s.

Go Big or Go Home

We can now officially say that we are done with our home study, woo hoo! Our home study agency is sending us the completed copies (notarized, stamped, signed!) and we can now move on to the next step.  What is the next step you might ask?  The USCIS form! And not just any form, the I-800A form.

“Wow, that sounds amazing” you’re probably thinking.  I wonder what the heck that is!?

The USCIS is an acronym for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the purpose of this step in the process is: “For adjudicating the eligibility and suitability of the applicant(s) to adopt a child who habitually resides in a Hague Adoption Convention country.”

Huh? Well this form determines whether we are suitable for adoption (we are vetted much, at the end of this everyone will know how amazing we are) and also initiates the immigration process for our future children.

And just a quick note on the Hague Adoption Convention, (because we’ll probably mention it in the future) the Hague Convention is important because it established internationally agreed upon rules and procedures for adoptions between countries and is sort of the gold standard for ensuring the safety of children and that the rights of all are protected.  Also the Hague is in Holland surrounded by tulips so what’s not to love about that?

And in the spirit of talking about tulips, we have our own version growing in our backyard with the latest nopal photo.

As you can see, two new pencas have started growing from the little pink buds we showed in the last blog.  They grow up so fast! 

This sprouting of 2 pencas at once seems to be perfectly in line with our plan to adopt a sibling pair of 2 children.  Sure, we don’t have any kids now and that will be a big change, but we figured it would be better for the kids to have their sibling with them and then at least they’d always have each other. 

Upon telling a friend about the fact that we would be adopting 2 kids at once, she said “wow, go big or go home!”  Yep, that pretty much sums it up for the entire process.  We are “all in” to use a Vegas metaphor.  

For now we’re going to celebrate the completion of one big step and party on to the next one.  We imagine no one has ever referred to the I-800A form with the word “party” but we have to keep this festive, right?

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