Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Procuraduria General De La Nacion...what?

We've been getting a lot of questions about PGN and what it is and what happens during that time. So I've decided to explain it in as much detail as possible so folks will know where are case is right now.

After a case exits Family Court and you have U.S. Embassy pre-approval, the case is submitted to Procuraduria General De La Nacion (PGN). PGN is tasked with ensuring that the requirements for adoption under Guatemalan law are met. As part of this process, the case is submitted to a PGN reviewer for a determination as to whether all legal requirements have been met. The reviewer examines all of the documents that we submit as part of our dossier, additional documents submitted by our Guatemalan attorney, the social worker's report and the U.S. Embassy visa pre-approval. If the reviewer determines that all of the documents are in order, the reviewer will sign off on the file and forward it for final approval. When final approval is granted, our case exits PGN. Shortly after our case exits PGN and the final paperwork is completed, the Guatemalan adoption process ends and you we legally the parents of Isabella!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Oak Adoptive Health Center

Kevin and I have been working with Dr. Ellen Kempf of Akron Children's Hospital Oak Adoptive Helth Center. She has been instrumental in helping gauge Isabella's health and development through pictures. When Izzy comes home, the first visit she will make is to the Oak Adoptive Health Center to begin her vaccinations and behavioral health therapy.

According to Children's website, The Oak Adoptive Health Center at Akron Children's Hospital was established in June 2004 with a generous donation from local philanthropists Jim and Vanita Oelschlager who have an adopted grandchild. The center works to prepare and educate families involved in domestic, international and special needs adoptions. It also provides medical, psychological and developmental evaluation and support to encourage the healthy growth of the adoptive family. The Oak Adoptive Health staff does not replace the child's primary care doctor. However, if medical issues exist, the services of the Akron Children's Hospital staff are readily available.

The Center staff believe every child deserves a permanent home and a loving family. For thousands of adults and children, adoption is the path leading to a fulfilling family life.

We are grateful for Dr. Kempf's time and expertise during this waiting period!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Clothes Shopping

With an end to this adoption nightmare finally in sight, Kevin and I went shopping. And did we shop.

We met up with an old friend, Laura and her husband (Josh), at Summit Mall. They live in Columbus and Kevin and I haven't seen them since their wedding three years ago. They were headed up this way to meet up with Laura's mom and sisters. Laura and Josh had a baby six weeks ago and all her family lives in Geneva so half way was Akron. So we lucked out! We got to spend time with friends and give lots of attention to Isaac. It was a really great time!

So while at Summit Mall we brought lots of clothes for Isabella. Since she's 17 pounds right now and we are hoping to travel within 8 weeks to bring her home, we brought 6-9 month sizes. But we also found great deals on 18 months clothes, too, to use for next winter. Some items were less than $1 and most were between $1.50-$4 each. So we really stocked up. She even has a new winter coat and matching hat.

We were having so much fun that later that evening we headed to Strongsville Mall to hit the Children's Place there. Again, lots of different items in stock and cheap!

But we'll have to wait a little bit longer to get the rest of her travel items. We don't want to buy too much and have to return a bunch of stuff once she's home. We'll have lots of fun with her the first few days she home, shopping and stocking up on diapers.

P.S. Happy Birthday Laura!!!!!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Out of translation

Late yesterday afternoon, Kevin and I heard that the final papers have completed translation. On Monday, the file will be submitted to PGN, which is the final Guatemalan court proceedings for the adoption.

While the case is in PGN we will hear no information about the case. We will only hear if there are problems and the case is kicked out for new documents, updated forms, etc. We are praying this goes smoothly and we don't hear from them at all until we have an OK stamp.

Our agency told us PGN averages a 10-15 business day wait. Some fly through and some are in PGN for several weeks. It just depends on the case manager and judge who looks at your case.

Kevin and I, and I know all of you who read this, are praying that this goes smoothly and quickly. The next few weeks will be grueling as we wait to hear and not to hear, if you know what I mean!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Scrapbooking

I really enjoy scrapbooking (and believe it or not so does Kevin). So we decided to create a book for Isabella about her adoption so she can learn about how she came to have us as parents.

I haven't actually started her scrapbook because every time I sit down to begin I think of all the ways I might document our journey to this point without pictures. We have so few pictures of Isabella right now that the book about her may look bare.

So I've decided to make a scrapbook map on 11x17 paper outlining the pages' themes, where pictures will appear and where journal entries will go. This way I can plan for pictures to come and for family times together, instead of thinking about all the time we've missed.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Lost in Translation

While I was hoping to say we had entered final court, I was frustrated to find out today that the DNA documentation is still in translation. That means the one piece of paperwork which mostly includes numbers still has not been processed. Without that translated paper, we cannot move forward.

I expressed my disappointment to the agency that the translation was not complete and asked why something so simple has taken now 21 days. The answer: I'll ask.

I'm sorry but that's not good enough. My baby is living in Guatemala City with people she believes are her family while Kevin and I, her parents, wait to hold her. "I'll ask" is not the answer I should get.

Sorry for the emotional outburst but this blog is my way of releasing frustration. Hope it doesn't turn anyone away.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Guatemala

We talk about Guatemala a lot in blog because that is where Isabella is living. But what do we know about the county? Here are some interesting facts:

The Maya civilization flourished in Guatemala and surrounding regions during the first millennium A.D. After almost three centuries as a Spanish colony, Guatemala won its independence in 1821. During the second half of the 20th century, it experienced a variety of military and civilian governments as well as a 36-year guerrilla war. In 1996, the government signed a peace agreement formally ending the conflict, which had left more than 100,000 people dead and had created some 1 million refugees.

Location: Central America, bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between El Salvador and Mexico, and bordering the Gulf of Honduras (Caribbean Sea) between Honduras and Belize

Comparative area: slightly smaller than Tennessee

Climate: tropical; hot, humid in lowlands; cooler in highlands

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

She's growing fast

We won’t get an update until Thursday of this week, so for those waiting on pins and needles you will have to wait another few days, just like Kevin and me.

But in the meantime, some updates on Isabella’s development!

Age 7 months 16 days
Weight 17 lbs.
Clothes size 9-12 months
Shoe size 3.5

Please don’t take these clothes and shoe sizes to heart. Guatemala has a different scale for clothes and shoes. According to her foster mother, Isabella is eating rice cereal and all types of jarred baby foods. She enjoys playing in her walker and is pulling herself up onto the furniture.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Dreams

While I hoped to give you an update today, I have no news because I was unable to touch base with our agency representative today.

Another of the frustrations Kevin and I have had to deal with regularly is being avoided. In other words, people forget to call us back or the messages get lost. Inexcusable excuses for a business, I think.

So no new news today.

When I started this blog, it was to keep family informed of updates and progress on bringing Isabella home, but it's grown to something much more. Being on the web, anyone who searches for adoption blogs can access our page and read about our journey, and I've heard from several people from across the U.S. who have thanked us for writing this page. So I've decided to add some thoughts I was keeping private, but I think my writing publicly about them will help others on this journey appreciate and think about some things Kevin and I have struggled with.

Nightmares... The past few weeks I have had horrible nightmares about our adoption. While so vivid I can actually remember the spoken words, the dreams are my way of dealing with a situation I have less and less control of. A controlling personality to begin with, I have had some difficulty giving up the control over something so important and precious to us -- Isabella.

So I'm quickly learning that subconsciously I want and need to control the situation but can't. So I am working it out in my dreams. In fact, I am dreaming so vividly that I can recite word for word what I'd like to tell our agency about the delays and how heartbreaking they have been.

For others who are working through an adoption, if you are dreaming terrible things, things you know you personally will never do, know that it's your minds way of dealing with a hard situation. Know that you are a good person who is dealing with a distressing wait and dreams are helping you through.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

No Friday update this week

Just a heads up for those who are waiting to hear about Isabella on Friday. Our agency contact are out of the office through next Monday at training and will be unable to give us our weekly update. So Kevin and I will take a blogging break this weekend and return strong next week. I plan to talk with the agency on Monday morning and will post a message about the conversation. So watch for it Monday afternoon.

And thanks so much for your comments. Kevin and I love reading them each night. Keep sending them!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Medical Updates

Each month a representative from our agency visits Guatemala to see the foster families, take pictures of the children and get updated medical reports.

Well, I've been disappointed with what they consider medical reports.

Kevin and I have been working with a local pediatrician through Akron Children's Hospital Adoptive Center. She has been great in preparing us for best and worst-case scenarios when Isabella comes home. She reviews her pictures each month and talks with us about Isabella's development. She reviews what limited medical information we receive. Her expertise is invaluable and we thank her for her time and dedication to our case.

When I hear the phrase medical report I expected a report from a doctor telling us Isabella's weight, height, a listing of shot records, etc. Much like we would see here. But I was mistaken. A medical report, from the agency's standards, is an email from an agency representative listing the child's weight and head circumference. That's it!

As new parents we demand more but are shot down with a "That's all we get."

The children are seeing professional doctors and I think we should be able to see copies of those records. Reform is definitely needed, but I'm not willing to fight that battle. I just want my Isabella home, happy and healthy!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

New Izzy Pictures

We got new pictures late last night. No update but hoping for news by the end of the week. She turned seven months old on January 8. Enjoy the photos!




Monday, January 16, 2006

Pictures as promised...

As promised, the debut of Izzy's completed room....

On her door (handmade by Grandpa Kramer)

Walking through the door, you see a beautiful cross-stitch made by my cousin Kristy

Over her crib you see her name is raised wooden lettering with a musical Noah's Ark scene. The back of the crib is a handmade quilt from cousin Tricia.

And finally a nice chair for Mom and Izzy to relax in.


And next time, pictures of her playroom!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Done & Done

Remember a week back the list of Still Waiting items that needed completion before Izzy came home? Well, we can mark two more as DONE. Kevin and his dad put up the border in Izzy room and installed the fireplace in the basement. The room looks amazing and once we hang some shelves and pictures, it will be complete. Pictures will surely follow in another post. The fireplace is great and warms the whole house. It will really come in handy when Izzy wants to play downstairs.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Friday=Update

When we started experiencing problems and delays with the adoption, Kevin and I decided to take a proactive approach in dealing with our adoption agency. We pledged to call once each week to talk with our case manager to get a progress report on the case even if it was to hear that nothing changed from the previous week. This would keep us up-to-date and would remind the agency that we are very interested in each step of the case.

We called yesterday to find out that our case manager is in Guatemala, dealing directly with our case. We should receive a full report next week and hopefully receive new pictures of Izzy (The last photos are from Nov. 30.).

While we were disappointed that no one told us that our case manager was going to Guatemala, we know that we will get some news, while it may not be good news, next week. But we will stay positive and hope that everything is moving quickly through the last stages of the process.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Isabella from 5 and 6 months old

We wanted to show everyone the rest of Isabella's pictures. Then, when we get updates we can post them so you can see how fast she's growing.


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Your Comments

We really appreciate everyone taking time to visit the blog and read about our journey. Your comments give us more strength than you could possibly know.

To post a comment to the blog, follow these steps:
1) Go to http://asthekramerfamilygrows.blogspot.com/
2) Click on the "comments" hyperlink in the lower right-hand corner of the post.
3) Write your message in the pop-up box.
4) If you're a blogger click on your name. If not, click on Other.
5) Type your name in the name box.
6) Click on "Publish Post".

It's that easy and we will really appreciate hearing from you.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Attachment Issues

I am reading a book about coping with adopted children who have attachment issues. According to the author, children adopted before 7 months old are the least likely to develop issues later in life because the attachment bond is still forming until that age. Infants adopted by their forever families who are 8-12 months of age when being placed have difficulties, especially if they were living in a foster home since birth because they think the foster mom is their mom. Children older than one year have the most problems, many developing years later, in the school years.

Now that Izzy is 7 months old I'm very concerned about how she will handle being ripped from the only home she's known and given to complete strangers.

The doctors who wrote the book say the best way to deal with initial attachment issues is to have no one other than the adoptive parents hold, feed or change the child for one week for every month old the child is. Is that realistic? According to the so called experts, no one other than Kevin or I should hold Izzy for at least 8 weeks (that's if we get her while she's 8 months old, 9 weeks or more if the process continues to drag on).

I'm not sure how to handle this and will be talking with our pediatrician and family psychologist to get their takes on the subject.

P.S. If anyone would like to email us without posting a comment on this blog, reach us at jenkramer1@yahoo.com.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Best laid plans

When we installed the garage door opener the plan was to keep the Explorer, the primary vehicle in which Izzy will ride, in the garage. That is so snow doesn't cover it and she won't have to sit in a cold car while it is cleaned off. Well, that may not happen because of an Akron parking law that police are now enforcing.

Since we have a one-car garage, a single car driveway and Kevin drives a company vehicle, the Escort is parked in front of the house on the street. Many other neighbors do the same thing being that most of the houses on our street have no garages or only one-car garages.

Well, yesterday, I got home to find a parking ticket on the Escort. I immediately called the City to find out why I was ticketed. The lady told me about a parking law and its new enforcement policy. So I moved the Escort into the garage and parked the Explorer in the driveway. No problem yet, but once Izzy gets home I'm worried about how I will handle the baby and the snow covered car.

Kevin works out-of-town a lot so I will have the baby by myself quite often. I can't leave her inside the house while I get the car ready and I don't want to put her in the car. So I guess I will have to plan on heating the car up at least 15 minutes before any winter trip, get the baby in the car and then clean the snow off. Hopefully, by then, the defroster will have melted it enough that it just slides off. Sounds like a plan. But I feel bad about not using the garage since Kevin and his dad worked so hard to make it easy for me. But the best laid plans don't always work!

Monday, January 09, 2006

CO2 Scare

Kevin and I were awaken this morning to a strange beeping every thirty seconds. Kevin went o investigate and found the CO2 detector going off. We weren't sure if the alarm sounded and the thirty second beeps for warnings of an alarm or if the batteries needed changing. Kevin changed the batteries and the beeping stopped but he still wasn't sure if the alarm sounded in the first place. So we called the fire department to come do an inspection. Everything was okay, thank goodness.

But this really got me thinking about what kind of danger we could have been in and Isabella could have been in if it was a true CO2 leak. I'm thankful that one of the safety requirements to pass the home inspection is having a working CO2 detector.

So please, everyone test your detectors. Make sure the batteries are up-to-date and pay attention to those beeps!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Home Improvements

To pass our homestudy, we had to jump through many hoops to get our home up to State Standards. We had to install baby proof locks on all cabinets, design a fire and tornado escape plan which are posted in the kitchen, post emergency numbers by every telephone in the house, post an approved-sized fire extinguisher in the kitchen (not a kitchen one, but a full-sized one - pretty crazy, huh), move boxes 10 feet away from the breaker box, have a 3-ft clearance around the furnace, replace outlet covers with new ones, have special outlets near all water sources, have a fire-escape ladder on the 3rd floor, have approved cribs and car seats (inspected and signed off on by fire marshals), pass the fire test, pass a cleanliness test. And I'm sure I'm missing about a hundred other things. But we passed.

We had things that we wanted to finish around the house, to, before Izzy comes home. Finish the hardwood flooring in the kitchen complete with molding. DONE. Put in a garage door opener. DONE. Reorganize the basement into a playroom. DONE. Build a toybox. IN PROCESS. Hang the baby's border and picture and shelves. STILL WAITING. Remove the glass shower door and replace with a shower screen for easier baby bathing. STILL WAITING. Remove the old cement washtub in the basement and replace it with a plastic one. STILL WAITING but have supplies. Repaint the front porch. DONE Remove the Oak tree in backyard. 1/2 DONE. Recarpet the downstairs bedrooms and basement stairs. DONE. Install a gas heater in the basement. STILL WAITING. Install a dishwasher and garbage disposal. DONE Reorganize office for storage space. STILL WAITING.

So you can see we are well on our way to getting things ready. Just not sure when the rest will get done.

Izzy @ 4 months

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Checking In

Now that you're updated on the adoption, we can start using this blog as it's meant to be used - a daily (or close to daily) rant of what is happening with the Kramers - our joys and disappointments, our journeys to become parents and updates on Isabella, of course, the most important and most watched reason.

Today I'm just checking in to say thanks for all of the encouraging comments and notes you've left for us. We are writing this not only to keep our extended friends and family updated but also as a journal we can share with Isabella as she gets older.

Keep the comments coming. They really brighten are days which are sometimes filled with a longing so powerful that nothing but crying relieves.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Hold-Ups

So now that everyone is up to speed on the process, we can give you the abbreviated version of the hold-ups in our case. Being that the majority of parents pick up their babies before they are six months old, Kevin and I knew we'd have our Izzy home by Christmas. But like I said before, hold-ups happen. And boy have they happened to us!

First, our attorney didn't do anything with our case for 4 months. It just sat their, on her desk, no movement. When we started to complain, she got her butt moving.

We had paperwork issues, having to get documents reissued which meant new notaries, new verifications and legalizations and new translations. All this takes time and money. In the beginning we had a hard time with the paperwork because we couldn't find a notary to work with us on this process. We had paperwork that was signed but needed notarized. A big no-no apparently. But our agency said everyone finds a way to get it done. We did, finally.

Once our attorney got moving with the case, she noticed that the birthmother's birth certificate was hard to read. She wanted a new one for the file. This added two more months to the case because the birthmom lives in a remote village, which was hit by mudslides.

Once the village issued the B.C, the attorney couldn't get to the village because the roads were washed away.

Then they couldn't find the birthmother to get the DNA test done. She got a job and was out of the country.

DNA test done, LapCorp or our agency lost the original documents. Noone will fess up. Can't proceed without those papers. But all is well because we found out this week, LapCorp reissued the documents and our agency has them in hand.

So it's been a bumpy road, but we're making it through.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Process

Adoption is a process and while the process is similar for every one, things don't always happen the way they are set to. At least that's what we are telling ourselves as we chase our tails.

After the referral, and that is how our agency refers to Izzy to this day - Your Referral - not Isabella, not Gersel (her birth name) but Your Referral - there are several necessary steps to finalize an adoption.

The steps as described to us:
1) Complete your dossier
2) Accept a referral
3) Complete a power of attorney
4) Translate the dossier from English to Spanish
5) Have case assigned an attorney
6) Complete DNA test
7) Go through Family Court
8) Receive Pre-approval for Visa
9) Enter PGN (final court)
10) Receive embassy appt.
11) Travel to pick up your child

Seems pretty straight forward, right? That's what we thought. But there are lots of little steps in between these major ones that can cause major problems for a family.

Thanks to www.guatefam.org we have the real picture of the process (It's pretty comprehensive, so you may want to skip it, but this shows you how things can get messed up):
Note: Some steps may overlap or happen out of order, but this gives the general sequence.
Referral and Adoption Procedures
1) Dossier is sent to Guatemala to be translated.
2) Child is born.
3) Birth is registered at Civil Registry and a birth certificate is issued.
4) Birth mother signs over custody to a lawyer and authorizes the lawyer to pursue adoption plans for the child; child enters foster care (usually) or sometimes orphanage or children's home
5) Child is taken to a pediatrician for basic physical and (for newborns) usually for first immunizations, if these steps were not done prior to relinquishment.
6) Birthmother also sees a doctor to make sure she is fine and may have blood tests done at this time, if they haven't been done prior to the birth of the child.
7) You receive a referral with child's and birth mother's names, basic physical info, and usually a photo and results of screening blood tests for syphilis, hepatitis and HIV.
8) You accept referral and sign a Power of Attorney (POA) to authorize the lawyer in Guatemala to act on your behalf during the adoption process. Under Guatemalan law the same lawyer may represent the birth mother's and child's interests and your interests during the adoption. Some agencies use separate lawyers for adoptive parents, most don?t.
9) Your POA is registered in Guatemala.
10) The lawyer submits all the documents in the case to Family Court, and petitions the Family Court to assign a social worker to investigate the case.
11) The lawyer requests authorization from the US Embassy to have DNA testing performed on the birth mother and child to confirm that they are indeed biologically mother and child. DNA testing is done with supervision and a photo of the birth mother with the child is taken at the testing site to ascertain their identities.
12) Family Court social worker reviews your dossier, interviews the birth mother, sees the child in foster care or orphanage, and (almost always) approves the adoption. The social worker writes a several page report summarizing the facts of the case and attesting to the reasons that the birth mother cannot care for the child. The birth mother signs consent for adoption for second time.
13) Meanwhile the DNA test should have been performed, cleared, and submitted to the Embassy with your dossier for review and approval by the Embassy. The case cannot take the next step after Family Court until the Embassy DNA approval has been issued. This is a safeguard to prevent a situation in which a child is legally adopted under Guatemalan law, but not eligible for immigration under US law. A third consent by the birth mother is signed during the DNA process.
14) The lawyer then submits a petition for approval of the adoption case to a notarial officer of the Attorney General's office (Procuraduria General de la Naciƃ³n or PGN). (A Notary in Guatemala is an attorney with additional powers, not simply someone who certifies signatures as in the US.)
15) Notary in PGN reviews all the documents (often requesting that some be re-done because of minor spelling errors, expired notary seals, etc.) and almost always approves the adoption. The PGN may at their discretion investigate aspects of the case if they wish and as a result of that and other variations, time in this step (as in many steps) can vary widely.
16) PGN issues its approval for the adoption to proceed.
17) The lawyer then meets the birth mother for the 4th and final sign-off.
18) The adoption decree is then written and issued by the lawyer and the child is legally now the child of the adoptive family.
19) A new birth certificate is then issued by the Civil Registry with the child's first and middle names unchanged, but with the names of the adoptive parent(s).
20) Lawyer takes new birth certificate and applies for a Guatemalan passport (although the child is adopted by US parents, he or she is still a Guatemalan citizen).
21) All documents are translated into English by certified translators, as required by US INS regulations.
Then:
Visa Issuance and Travel Procedures
These are the procedures followed if you travel to pick up your child.
1) Passport is issued.
2) Child gets a visa photo done.
3) Lawyer takes all the paperwork back to the Embassy, including the passport, your dossier, the Family Court findings, the adoption decree, the DNA results, all translations, and the visa photos, and requests approval for an orphan visa to enter the US.
4) Embassy authorizes visa. This approval is on pink paper and is called the "pink slip". It is usually issued a day or two after submission of the documents.
5) Child gets an exit physical by an Embassy-approved doctor (to make sure the child doesn't have unrecognized handicapping conditions or infectious diseases). Note that this exam used to require prior embassy approval, but can now be done any time after the passport is issued, without prior approval of the embassy.
6) You are told your case is complete and you travel to Guatemala (many people travel sooner but this is the "official" time when travel is recommended).
7) The lawyer completes required INS and State Department forms for visa issuance and includes them in the document package along with the results from the exit physical.
8) You meet your child, and they stay with you from this point forward.
9) You -- often but not alwaysaccompaniedd by the lawyer or someone from their staff -- bring your child and all the papers back to the Embassy early one morning, pay the visa fees, present the I-600 and I-864 forms (fill these out well ahead!), show your tax returns for the past 3 years (including W-2s and 1099s, pluscurrentt letters of employment or recent pay stubs) to prove you can support the child, and come back later that afternoon for your visa and sealed packet of documents.
10) Then you can go home. On arrival you must to submit the sealed packet to INS at your first point of entry into the US.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Drama Begins

When we started with our agency, they gave us a timeline for how the adoption process would proceed. They gave us what they called realistic timeframes for the adoption finalization. But we've come to learn that sometimes, their "realistic timeframes" don't always work out.

When we signed with the agency in February 2005, they assured us that our baby would be home by the end of the year. In fact, when we received our immigration paperwork in May, the expected pick up date was Sept. 7.

The first part of the adoption process involves a lot of paperwork, much of which is handled by the parents. The faster we get the paperwork done, the faster we get a referral, and the faster our baby gets home. That's the plan, anyways. Our dossier, the packet of forms required for the adoption, was time-consuming but we completed it within 4 weeks (around March 10). That included completing the homestudy, a process involving a social worker, classes and home inspections. We would have finished in 3 weeks but we failed the first fire inspection. Oops, no safety valve on the hot water tank but it was fixed and okayed a week later (not that that matters now because we've had a new one installed since.)

So our part went smoothly and fairly quickly. Then the waiting began.

The last form for the dossier was the immigration paperwork giving preapproval for the adoption. We had to appear at the Homeland Security Office, get fingerprinted and have background checks done by the FBI (all okayed). Now we just needed the paper saying "it's okay" to proceed.

We waited for what seemed like forever. We started to worry after four weeks without a word. So we called INS. They couldn't find our file. Yikes! This meant that we may have to go through INS again and pay again, not a small fee. They requested a few weeks to search for the documents.

Finally, the day before we left for a two-week vacation, the approval letter came. Thank goodness. Apparently, someone was working on our file, was interrupted and more files were put over ours, getting lost in the shuffle. (This should have told us this was not going to be the typical adoption.)

When our dossier was complete with INS approval , no babies were available. We had wanted a girl but decided to take a boy if one became available. We waited two weeks when we got the call a boy was available. We asked when girls were expected to be available and we were told about a week. We've waited this long. "Let's wait for a girl." A week came and went. But on Monday, June 20, Isabella's paperwork was presented to us. We've found our Izzy!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Baby Showers

Isabella at 3 months


When we heard that the adoption could be on the fast track and Izzy may be home as soon as September, the grandmas-to-be got in high gear in planning baby showers. Since both Kevin and my families are so big the grandmas decided to host separate family events.

Grandma Kramer wanted to host hers in August because she was throwing a bridal shower in October for her soon-to-be daughter-in-law. Grandma Gaylord opted for September but the showers were still only two weeks apart.

Kevin and I had a blast at both parties. We got to see so many excited family members and friends and everyone got to learn about the process and see Izzy's pictures.

August 27 was the Kramer family shower. It was held at Silver Lake Country Club and was a brunch. The food was amazing - eggs, bacon, fruit, danish, hash browns. Grandma Kramer and the aunts-to-be, Tiffany and Melissa, really made the event special for Kevin and me. Each place setting had a candy bar announcing Isabella's birthday and a beautiful card featuring a poem about adoption. I cried when I read it and have saved many copies to include in Isabella's scrapbook. The highlight of the day - besides seeing the many friends and family - was watching a special photo video set to "In my Daughter's Eyes" by Martina McBride featuring Isabella's birth pictures. The Kramers had it burned to DVD so Kevin and I can watch the cherished piece whenever we'd like.

My sister and my mom hosted a shower on September 10. It was held at the Silver Lake Towers Party Room thanks to my great-aunt Margie. Guests feasted on chicken and rigatoni, salad, rolls and tons of desserts. Each guest received their own picture of Isabella in an adorable baby frame for them to cherish. (Plus they can change out the photo with the "adoption" announcement picture when Izzy comes home.) Set to a CD of lullabies, the shower was complete with a new video of Izzy straight from Guatemala. Kevin and I received the DVD just days before the party and were anxious to show it to anyone. We showed the Kramer video and no eyes were dry in the room. It was great to see so many aunts, cousins, friends and family. Even some of my old interns came to share in the festivities.

Thanks moms and sisters for great memories and thanks to all our friends and family for the wonderful gifts. Izzy is truly lucky to have you in her family!


Kramer Shower

Gaylord Shower

Health Scare

As I wrote before, Isabella was born on June 8, 2005. We found out she was ours 12 days later. In July, though, we had a major health scare as we received a call that Isabella was very ill. Her eyes were swollen; she was lethargic. They didn't know what was wrong. Her foster mother was instructed by the adoption agency to take her to the doctor immediately.

Kevin and I were frantic. We didn't hear about Isabella's health status for a whole week. Each day we called the agency for an update but no one could tell us anything. They just told us to wait and see. During our wait we received photos of Isabella in her ill state. We could see her swollen eyes and reddened face. The photos made the wait even worse.

Finally, 10 days after the health scare call, we learned Isabella was better. She had a bout of heat stroke and it was caught early. She was going to be fine. Below are the scary photos we received when Isabella was sick.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Our family now

Kevin and I began dating in October 1993. He was a senior and I was a freshman. We've been together ever since, even while he was away in the air force.

I graduated high school in 1997 and started at Kent State that summer. I went straight through, never taking a summer or winter break. I wanted done.

In my junior year at Kent (1998), my dad and I went to Alaska to run in the Mayor's Midnight Marathon in honor of my grandfather's courageous battle with leukemia. I was worried about going because one week prior I got a puppy - Kalli (she's a German Shepard, golden retriever, Australian Shepard mix) - and I didn't want to leave her. But Kevin and my mom promised to take great care of her.

When we returned from that trip I had a surprise waiting. Yes, Kalli was fine. A different surprise. Kevin proposed on the porch of my parents' home.

Kevin and I bought a cape cod in North Akron in August 1999 and married in November 1999. I finished college shortly after.

We lived happily ever after as a family of three until Kevin decided to get another puppy in July 2003. I said I didn't want the added responsibility of training another puppy, especially since Kevin spent most of his time out-of-town for work. But when he called me on July 2 and said he was holding the cutest puppy ever, I had to go see. Molly joined our family on July 4. She was in foster care and the foster parents wanted to meet us and get to know that new family. They decided we'd be perfect for "Amy" and she came home with us on Independence Day. I had decided the night before that we'd change her name to Molly. She just looked like a Molly (she's a greyhound, dachshund mix).

Kalli was not to sure about having to share her home with another pup but she adapted. She showed Molly that she was boss and Molly respected that.

Even with our two great dogs, someone in our family was missing. That's why we searched for Isabella.

Below are pictures of the 2005 Kramers. Soon, the 2006 Kramers will look much different.

As "The Year of the Adoption" begins

Kevin and I have a lot to look forward to in 2006! We will bring our daughter home and start a life as a family of three early this spring. My sister and her husband will renew their wedding vows at a blow-out wedding and reception in June. My sister-in-law will give birth to her second little one in July. Kalli will turn eight and Molly hits the big zero-three. (They are our dogs and as of now are the babies of the house. We'll see how they adjust. And you'll learn a lot about them in future posts.)

For your enjoyment on this second day of 2006, I'll post some more photos of Isabella at five days old.


Sunday, January 01, 2006

Welcome 2006!

With the start of the new year comes resolutions and the hope of better things to come. Kevin and I have the hope that Isabella will join our family during the first quarter of the year, and I plan to get back to Curves so I don't put on any new weight. Kevin has a few home improvement projects to complete before we bring our baby home, including putting up the border in her room so we can hang shelves and pictures. Plus we need to make our bathroom more baby friendly by removing a glass shower door and adding a drain stopper. What plans! We'll see how things progress and so will you if you check back here! Happy New Year and many blessings of a great year to you and your family! Enjoy some early photos of Isabella. She was only five days old.