Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Annnnd everything I posted yesterday is false...

We just got a letter in the mail.

PapaBeast will be sworn in on Nov 20.  So much for anything the government tells you...even the bad news is sometimes false, praise the Lord.  :-p

If, and it's a big, huge, elephant sized if, the state department's current estimates for passport processing time are correct, and passports really are taking 4 weeks, PapaBeast could have a US Passport in hand by Christmas.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Citizenship Approved and a New Template

Papa Beast is approved for Naturalization to the United States! 

However, he is not yet a US Citizen.  Basically, the approval is similar to a marriage license and just like you need a ceremony to be married (at least here in California, your laws may vary :p), you need to take the Oath of Citizenship to become a citizen.

Unlike getting married, however, you don't get the government go ahead during the week and then have your ceremony on the weekend.  Oh no, things aren't that easy in government land.

Instead, you wait. 

It can take up to a month to get a notice in the mail with your date, time, and location to appear to take the oath.  That doesn't stop me from stalking the mailbox several times a day, six days a week (when it isn't a Federal holiday).  I tell myself that it's because I'm expecting a book from Amazon or the replacement for a damaged Blu-ray disc.  Those things I tell myself are lies.

That isn't to say that I'm not incredibly thankful that things are moving ahead -- but it isn't easy to know that it will take months more to get my husband his passport, which is needed for our dossier.

So, while we wait, I do silly things like tinker with the blog template.  I like this one, because I do like yellow and grey -- I might try to add a little blue, though to reflect the colors of the flag of Kazakhstan.  Hmmm...back to tinkering.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Waiting for the Next Steps...

Today, the wait is killing me.

Tomorrow, National Novel Writing Month begins, and I will be volunteering as a Municipal Liaison (think local coordinator) for the sixth time in a row.  The kick-off is tonight, and I'm making decorations and putting the finishing touches on my Halloween costume (and the hubby's costume, and the pup's costume).

And yet -- the wait is killing me.

I don't know why it's hitting me right now, today, when I have so much to do, when I know that I will be busy for the next month and then come up for air only to find that Christmas is just a few short weeks away.

Maybe it's because it's Halloween, which is such a kid-centered holiday.  Maybe it's because I know that the air will be filled with kids and candy and scary making tonight.

Or maybe it's because we turned in a boatload of paperwork and now I find myself feeling like there is very little -- if anything -- that I can do that's productive on the adoption front.  I know that our home study is being completed in a "slow on purpose" fashion because we are waiting for the government in Kazakhstan to give the US the final go ahead.  I get that, at least in my mind.  But part of me is in  "do everything possible, right now" mode.  I understand that our agency does not want our home study and its components to age if Kazakhstan delays in opening -- but I still want to "get-er-dun!"

But things are moving ahead.  So far we have completed:

-Our 6 page autobiographies.
-The submission of vital documents like birth and marriage certificates.
-Some state and county paperwork.
-CPR class and the proof thereof.
-Fingerprinting and FBI clearance, along with other background check stuff
-Personal profile forms
-Other forms such as the application, family photo, etc.
-Two of the three required Hague classes.
-Guardianship paperwork (ie who gets the kids if something happens to us)
-The 3 required books -- two more need to be chosen from a list and book reports need to be written

And, best of all, Papa Beast has his interview and test for US Citizenship on Tuesday.  If you're the praying type, please say a few for Papa Beast?  It would mean a lot.  We THINK everything should go smoothly, and he is doing very well when I quiz him on the civics questions.  But this is the government, and Murphy's Law might be in effect.

So we carry on with life, and I try not to imagine/hope/expect our kids to be home next Halloween, as wonderful as it would be to be picking out or making little costumes and heading out door to door.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Five Years


No, not five years of marriage.  Five years since I stopped on my way to Northern California (headed home for quarter break) to meet a man I'd found on OKCupid for lunch in Culver City.  And a quick lunch turned into a three hour conversation and the unfamiliar feeling that capital "D" Destiny had smacked me across the face.

So why a wedding photo?

Well, when we got our wedding photo proofs back, my dad really liked this photo.  And I had to ask, "Okay, yeah, I like it too, but I would have thought you'd pick one where our faces show, you know?"  And that's when he said something very profound about how, to him, the photo represented a young couple at the start of their life together, ready to walk through that gate and into the wide world beyond.

And it was true. 

It was true in September 2008 when we first met and I had that thought of, okay, he might be it.  It was true just a few months later, in December, when the Man Now Known as Papa Beast took a road trip to San Francisco with some buddies and hopped across the bridge to meet my folks for the first time.  When dinner was over, my mom pulled me aside -- she'd gotten the same feeling, the same knowing that this was it, he was the one.

It was true in August of 2009, in the "stretching room" of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion, when the MNKPB got down got down on one knee when the lights when out and asked me to marry him when the lights came back on again.

And it was more true than ever in May of 2010, when we pledged our lives to one another before God, our family, and our friends. 

And it's still true now, I think, as we head down the road to adoption together.  It hasn't been the smoothest road on the map -- indeed the map itself seems to change as countries close and open and the news seems uncertain.  Even when the path is clear, it appears to wind, and we know that it could be shrouded in mist at any time.

But the truest thing of all is that I wouldn't want to walk down that road with any other man.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Scrapbooking the Trips: Part One -- Beginning to Build a Kit

Or, alternately...

Something to Do While We Wait.

Some of you may already be completely scrapbook addicted, while others might be exploring the idea of memory keeping for the first time.  Either way, I would like to share some products that I think would work well for scrapbooking the three required trips to Kazakhstan.  Some have a general travel theme, others have maps that clearly show that part of the world.  Other things are more generally family themed.  Because we don't yet know our children's exact ages and genders, I haven't purchased much (okay, just about anything) that is obviously "kid" or "baby" or "boy" or "girl."  I plan to add that stuff later, after we have a referral.  So, expect to see a lot more pink and/or blue in my final scrapbook than there is here.

Please note -- I'm not a digital scrapbooker, nor have I ever done the photobooks from printing services like Shutterfly and the like.  I like Persnickety Prints for photo printing, though, in case anyone was wondering.  Hopefully someone else in the adoption community somewhere out there has talked about digitally scrapbooking adoption trips.  I'm very paper and glue and glitter and pretty things.

I generally start choosing supplies by starting with the papers, but this time I started by thinking of the format I wanted my book to take.  I want to be able to use my computer for a daily journal, written with the intention of sharing it with others later.  I'm not big on long stretches of handwriting -- blame it on being forced to be right handed or on just plain laziness.  So my general plan is to journal on the computer and eventually print it out on 8.5x11 cardstock.  Now...where to put the pictures?  I usually like scrapbooking with a 12x12 format.  So my idea is to use a 3 ring album with both sizes of page protectors, interspersed with each other.  So pictures on one side, journaling on the other.  I will post pictures when I buy the album and the page protectors, which will happen a bit closer to our trip.

Other formats that would work would be dedicating half the page to journaling, or keeping the journaling and photos separate.  Or, even, bringing the paper you want to journal on to Kazakhstan with you if you like to have your own handwriting in your scrapbooks.  (I'm usually big on leaving your handwriting behind for your kids and all, but I also know that I'd rather compose long bits of text  on the computer -- I'm sure there will be handwritten captions and little "love notes" within this album.  Plus there's all the handwriting in every other book I do.)

Or you could abandon the page-a-day idea and just scrapbook what you feel like including in whatever order you feel like including it.  They're your memories, and it's your scrapbook.

After I decided on this format, I went through my "stash" of scrapbooking supplies and put the travel themed papers, including some I bought with these trips in mind, in an Iris 12x12 box from Michaels.  I also ordered a few things from Two Peas in a Bucket and threw them in the kit.  I have a feeling that it may end up becoming two or even more Iris boxes by the time I actually make the album.  But this is just a start.

I also know that there are certain reusable things -- like stamps and Cricut cartridges -- that I will wind up using on this album but that I also plan to use in the mean time.  Those things aren't going in my kit -- in my case, the kit is just for those things that I am "setting aside" so that I don't use them on other projects.

Is there anything anyone wants to know about scrapbooking, memory keeping, or anything else?  Please share in the comments.  :)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Since I Last Posted...

Ahh, yes, the inevitable checklist of a family who has a homestudy in progress.  At least we're moving forward, checking off the boxes.

I've read 2 of the 3 required books, and ordered the 3rd.  PapaBeast is working on the first one.  His work schedule is kicking his butt, but he's really putting in the effort.  He plans to be done tonight with the first book.  :)

We attended our first adoption class and we feel like we learned a lot.  They mostly covered the three parts of the adoption triad (adoptive parents, birth parents, and adoptees) and how the various factors in adoption affect all of them.  I hadn't really put myself in the birthmother's shoes before, so that was really eye opening.

We were fingerprinted.  It was hard to find the place, because it was in a post office box type store -- the sign for fingerprinting was TINY.  But we got it done.  One more box to check.  :)

I scheduled our CPR and First Aid class through the Red Cross next weekend.

PapaBeast has been studying for his citizenship test.  Becoming a US citizen will help simplify our paperwork.  Hopefully we will hear soon about his interview and test date.  :)

So, I really feel like we're getting closer to our goal.  Yes, Kazakhstan still has to officially begin accepting families into the program when it officially reopens.  Yes, we still need PapaBeast's citizenship.  But, at the end of the day, there's forward momentum.  And that's what counts.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Notebook for Adoption Classes

As part of our home study, we have to take classes.  Tonight, we are attending our first class, Lifelong Issues in Adoption.  Knowing, of course, that I would need to take notes, I decided to pretty up a composition book.
Yep, that's right, that cute notebook was 55 cents at target.  It was your typical black composition book before I covered it in patterned paper and added a matryoshka, or Russian nesting doll, cut from my Cricut machine, using the Paisley cartridge.  All of the paper is from the 1934 collection by Cosmo Cricket, which is sold at Hobby Lobby as a single sided paper pack.  The rhinestone is also from Hobby Lobby from a one pound carton of clear gems.
I used foam pop dots to make the upper part of the doll stand out from the face and background.  I also popped up the band at the bottom.  The doll was cut at 8 inches, with real dial size turned off.
The Cricut cartridge can be found here:
And, for those of you who haven't caught the Cricut bug yet, here's an introduction to what they do:
I love the Cricut for scrapbooking, card making, home d├ęcor and more.  I don't receive any payment or free product from Cricut or its parent company, Provo Craft, or any other company.  I simply recommend them because I love their products.
Lifebooks, scrapbooks, and other memory keeping is an important thing for parents of adopted children -- so important, in fact, that it is on the docket to be discussed tonight at our class, based on the description in our home study packet.  As someone who already makes memory keeping a big part of life, I hope to make memory keeping a large part of this blog and I hope to share various tips, tricks, and products that help me along the way.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Adventures in Making Pelmeni from Scratch

Being that we enjoy pelmeni (Russian dumplings) quite a lot when we have them at a local Russian deli, I've wanted to make them myself for a while.  So, I looked online and discovered the wonderful Taste Russian blog and their pelmeni recipe. (See: http://tasterussian.com/russian-pelmeni-recipe.html)

I hear that pelmeni are quite popular in Kazakhstan, and also that it is traditional for children to make pelmeni with their parents.  So, I consider this a dry run!

Okay -- Confession time.  I made these on Saturday, but I'm just posting them now.  I need to get better about this blogging thing, make it a real habit and all that good stuff.

So, the first challenge was converting the metric measurements to cups and fluid ounces.  Papa Beast pointed out that a simple Google or Yahoo search will do the conversion for you.  Now, I decided to do a double batch of their recipe, considering that it's hard to find half a pound of beef or pork.

Papa Beast also kindly made his way into the kitchen at various points during this whole process to take pictures.  Thanks, Honey!  :-)

So I made the dough, and here I am kneading it.  Kneading the dough was fun.  You can see what an utter mess I made of the countertop, though.  You can also see that I didn't end up using all of the cold water in the measuring cup.  I think I ended up rounding down slightly on the flour when I did the conversion from metric.  Either way, the flavor ended up working out.

Next you make a snake, which ends up being cut into sections and then those sections are rolled out into circles.

Why yes, I did have a lot of gunk in my engagement ring after all this.  Thanks for asking.  :-p

All those little circles, all in a row.  I ended up making each pelmeni bigger than it should have been -- which is fine.  But next time I think I will make four snakes out of the double batch, to get more smaller pelmeni.  I think they'll be easier to cook evenly that way, and maybe be more uniform in size.

Do a dollop of filling!  I used their filling recipe, but I put the onion and garlic in the food processer rather than grating it.  I also use jarred garlic.

Starting to fold.  And starting to get flour EVERYWHERE.  Shoulda worn an apron.  Ah, well, next time.

Look at that cute little pot sticker!

Folding the pot sticker into a tortellini style shape.

All the oversized pelmeni, all in a row.  Most wound up in Ziploc bags in the freezer -- next time we want pelmeni, all I'll need to do is boil them.

A close up of the pretty pelmeni.  And, of course, I didn't think to photograph the cooked ones.  Perhaps when I pull some out of the freezer and cook them, I'll remember to take a picture.
Papa Beast definitely considers these a "make again" and even one of his very favorite things I make.  I enjoyed it also, especially with sour cream.  Yum!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

About Us: Mama Stork, Papa Beast, and Super Pup

Mama Stork is a 25-year-old housewife from Orange County, California.  No, she is not on any reality TV shows, nor does she intend to be.  She enjoys reading, writing, scrapbooking, and cooking.  If there were 12 step programs for YouTube and Pinterest, she would be an excellent candidate for their services.

Papa Beast is a 29-year-old manager at a software company.  Born in the Philippines, he is well on his way to US citizenship, and hopes to ring in 2014 as an American.  After three years of marriage to Mama Stork, he has learned to spoil his wife with the occasional night out and give up his spot on the couch for Super Pup.  He is sometimes found putting golf balls around in the living room.

Super Pup is a 1.5-year-old German Shepherd/Saluki mix.  His motto is "Treats, Dog Park, and the American Way" and he has been described as "faster than a speeding Husky."  He enjoys watching The Dog Whisperer and Too Cute on Animal Planet.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

What's Happened Thus Far -- Or, Alternately, That Obligatory First Blog Post

Very early on in our relationship, my now-husband and I began to discuss the idea of international adoption. I had told him that I was unable to have biological kids as the result of medical treatment.  His immediate response was that he was open to adoption, and this was only three weeks after we had met.

We discussed countries, rather briefly, and thought that Russia was the best fit for us as a couple -- the children were fairly young and we both like Russian culture, despite not being Russian ourselves.

Time passed, and we got married in May of 2010.  I petitioned the government for my husband's immigration case to proceed, despite being stalled for quite some time.  As that started to proceed, we purchased a home and started looking deeper into adoption.  We found an agency that was local to us and attended one of their seminars, but never got farther than that, knowing we would need to save money before we could actually officially begin the process.

And so we moved into our new home, adopted a puppy from the local shelter, and my husband began to focus on building up his career.

Then, around Christmas 2012, the bomb dropped.  Russia closed it's adoption program for American citizens.  Meanwhile, Congress failed to renew the tax credit for adoption.  The loss and fear and uncertainty was difficult, to say the least.  I found myself wondering if we would ever become parents.  How would we ever afford it without the tax credit?  Where would we go, if Russia remained closed?

We looked at "our" agency's other programs, and found ourselves unenthusiastic about all of them.  So, we began facing the reality that we would very likely have to switch agencies.  I returned to the website of another local agency, one that we had ruled out early on because they only worked with couples who had been married three years or more.  While they could no longer offer Russian adoption, they did have suggestions for families who were hoping to adopt from Russia.  Of all of them, Kazakhstan seemed like our best fit.

Shortly there after, the tax credit was renewed again, and we were well on our way to affording our adoption.

Since then, we filled out an application, paid an application fee, received homestudy info, paid for the first phase of the homestudy, scheduled our first two classes, filled out an inch of paperwork, scheduled fingerprinting, and ordered some of our required reading books.  And we know we aren't even half done, but that, in the end, it will all be worth it.