On the other side of the table

This past weekend we were invited to speak at a pre-adoption class. It was the same pre-adoption class that we took several years ago. Since we attended our class, they have started to ask adoptive parents to come in and speak to the class about what their experiences were like.  Since we are still working towards finalization, we could not comment on all the aspects of the process.  But, we could certainly describe what we have experienced so far.

But, it was a bit weird being on the other side of the table. We arrived and entered in the back door of the Boys and Girls Aid building. Along the way we ran in to one of the waiting mom’s from our Pre-Adoption support class, it was nice to see her and catch up.

We entered the classroom and saw a room filled with hopeful parents. We hung out in the back of the room with the other panelists, like a bunch of cool kids on a school bus. Within a few minutes we were called up to the front and it began. As we did we were shocked to see two for our classmates from our Love and Logic class in the panel as well. They had adopted an adorable little girl. So after a few minutes of “Oh my God!”, hugs, and genuine joy for each other we all sat down and it began.

First, we had to introduce ourselves and then tell a brief bit about our family and our story. Then the teacher asked us some leading questions followed by questions from the hopeful parents directly. After years of working and waiting and being that pre-adoptive family, it was SO WIERD to be on the other side of the table. It was also weird to hear that copies of our hello book were still making the rounds in our old support group, giving other families ideas on how to make their books. On the whole experience was kind of surreal.

It started to remind us how far we have come. So without any further delay…  OUR ADOPTION JOURNEY… so far…

Our adoption journey really started 4 years ago after we saw a child’s profile listing on the Oregon Waiting Children. It wasn’t really the child that grab our attention, but rather that the caseworker was specifically looking for a two dad home. We had no clue that the adoption process had become so open to same sex families. After some long discussions, we worked up the nerve to make the phone call to sign up for a adoption orientation meeting.

The meeting was short introduction into the adoption process. They explained the special needs adoption process in Oregon and laid out some real hard facts about the types of damage these kids have gone through and what we should expect from the child and from the whole process. They also told the whole class to stop looking at the Oregon Waiting Children webpage as those kids would be long gone by the time we got our home study finished (THEY REALLY WERE NOT KIDDING). Which, at the time, was kind of a downer.

The next step was a set of mandatory classes. We were lucky and didn’t have to wait very long for a special needs class to open up. Within a month of our first orientation class, we were in the full special needs class, which covered in length and detail the adoption process and what our kido might be facing or has faced in his short life.

After the classes there was a bit of a pause in our adoption journey, almost a full year. After taking the classes and getting a better picture of what our new lives would be like, we started to set some goals. But the biggest decision was to wait. We wanted a better house/home and we needed to finish up our commitments to the different charity groups we worked with. We also needed to develop a lifestyle that would be beneficial for our future kido and us as future fathers.

So we did things like moving to a better house, started saving money to cover the adoption expenses and began reading a huge pile of adoption books. We also started to get our world setup for kids. We talked to friends and family members to see who would be a part of our family and who might need to not be a part. After almost a year, we both felt much more confident and we jumped back in with both feet. We picked our agency, filled out the agency application, paid the required fees and several weeks later we were assigned to our caseworker.

After a short get to know you meeting with our new caseworker, she started us working on our home study. First stop was signing a bunch of forms. Second stop we got finger printed. Our caseworker gave us a big long list of the information we needed to gather for our home study. Since we had taken some time off in our journey we were able to give her a big stack of legal documents (birth certificates, domestic partnership papers, etc) at our first meeting. But even with those off the list, we had a long list of items we still needed to locate and turn in. We had to supply financial information, personal references and had full medical checkups with drug and disease screening. We also had to complete a huge massive questionnaire, which asked some deep probing questions. The final step for us was the actual inspection of our home, to make sure it matched the state’s mandatory criteria.

During this process we also took some additional parenting classes and we started to volunteer some time each week to providing some respite care for a new adoptive family. The classes gave a much better grasp of the challenge ahead and working with the adoptive family has gave us some hands on experience dealing with a special needs child and the world of post adoption placement.

Once we had all of the required forms and paperwork turned in. Our caseworker started to write our home study. This took about a month. This was our first taste of the waiting process and we learned right away the worst was yet to come. WE HATED THE WAITING!  We were so amped up after getting all of the paperwork turned in, that just waiting doing nothing, felt like torture.

After a few torturous few weeks our home study was ready to go.  We met up with our caseworker and she presented us with two huge 3-ring binders filled with waiting children profiles. Not sure if new families get to see the binders anymore, right before we got Jayme, Oregon switched to a secure online system. But regardless, from those three binders we found 12 kidos we liked. Jayme was kido number one, top of the list.

Our caseworker then sent our new home study off to the caseworkers of those first 12. Since then every few weeks our caseworker would email us a new profile of a kido or set of kidos who she thinks we might be a good match for us. We would also check the waiting children’s websites (daily). Once we check it out and if we like it, she sends in our home study.

So now some depressing math… One of the choices we made was to stick to an Oregon based adoption. Same sex couples can’t really adopt openly internationally and each state has its own rules on same sex couple adoption. We also had a goal age and sex of our kido. We are looking for a little boy, aged 4-9 or a sibling group of boys aged 4-9. We knew that sticking with one state and with such a narrow range limits our options, but it also helped us learn what we want and set a goal and get a plan. So knowing that, we can look at some rough, questionable numbers.

Based on the historical adoption numbers reported from the Oregon DHS…
Last year, 584 kids that fell within our target age range were adopted. (not placed or matched, that could be a much higher number, this is only finalized adoptions) 78% of those were adopted by a foster family, which we are not.
Which leaves 129 kidos. Of that 129 kido’s 49.9% were male
This leaves roughly 64 boys within our target pool. This 64 is before we have even read their profiles. Just a bit depressing, but then we look at our results. Over the course of a year and a half we sent in a total of 48 home study’s. From that 48 we heard back with more information on 6 kidos. Of that 6 we were selected to go to committee on only 3 of them.

But all of that that is getting ahead of our story. So of those 6 we heard back from, the caseworker read our home study and thought we might be a good match. They then sent us a more detailed profile of the kido. This bigger profile shows more of the kidos background, who his biological parents are and more information on any medical or other special needs the kido might have. As we mentioned we only got to this stage with 6 kidos.  The 3out of 6 times that we have gotten to this stage we excluded ourselves from the process. The information we got back showed us that we were NOT a good match. It’s hard not to get a little depressed about the process. After waiting for months to hear back only to make the choice to walk away, it’s beyond emotionally draining.

But as we said we did get to the committee stage with 3 kidos. The first was by sheer luck. Our caseworker happened to be in the right place at the right time, when a family backed out of going to committee at the last minute she was able to re-present our homestudy to the child’s caseworker. Turned out the caseworker really liked us and asked us to go to committee…. in 4 days. It was a mad dash and an emotional 4 days, in the end we came in 2nd place.

The second time we headed to committee was for Jayme. With Jayme we had a long time to prepare for committee and we took advantage of that and had several conversations with his caseworker and therapist. We also took some extra classes that targeted Jayme’s needs better. The third committee we were invited to was to be held 1 week prior to Jayme’s, we felt such a commitment to Jayme that we declined going to that committee (all our eggs in one basket). In retrospect we made the right call, but it was a big emotional event in our lives. At the time we described it as an emotional roller coaster, it was a very mild way of putting it.

We also had to submit twice on Jayme, he was taken out of the adoption pool and then reintroduced later. It was on this reentry into the adoption pool we caught the caseworker’s eye.

When the big day for Jayme’s committee came, Joshua took the day off, to stay home and pace the floors. Later that night we had a big stack of information about Jayme dropped off at our house. Which required several hours of reading, Full medical history, educational records, family information, the works. We will then had 7 days to opt out of the adoption. We gave our YES, 24 hours after the committee met.

Our transition was a slow one.  Jayme learned that he had a new family and then over 4 weeks we met with him several times a week.

Up next…. finalization. At the 6 month mark Jayme’s caseworker and our Boys & Girls Aid caseworker will write 2 letters to DHS, hopefully recommending we move to finalization. They say the paperwork from that point can be 6-12 weeks, but then we all end up before a judge to make it all legal and binding.

But if we have our way… All we want for Christmas is Jayme (and perhaps a trip to Disney World).

 

Adoption Washington – update

As we have posted before, we have started to branch out into the state of Washington in our search for a child to adopt. Venturing into Washington is a bit scary for us. We have heard several scary stories and tales that originally made us stay firmly on the Oregon side of the mighty Columbia. But as time has gone on in our adoption journey, we have been tempted across the river…. So we felt we should share here in our adoption blog what our feelings and what the results have been like. So far “it’s really not so very scary” and mostly just sad.

The first few submissions did not yield any results, which was not uncommon or unexpected. On 99.9% of our Oregon submissions we never hear a word back, not even a polite “No thank you”. But on the last two and most recent Washington submissions we not only got responses back, we got real interest from both caseworkers. Within a few days we found ourselves reading over two different 50+ page long faxes full of details and information all about these two very different little boys.

We will not get into anything specific on the children to protect their privacy, but both have heart breaking stories and some real warning flags surrounding both their mental health and past behaviors.

Even with over 50 pages of information on each child, we found there was surprisingly very little real information to go on to figure out who these kids are. Much of the medical information was old and just brief summaries highlighting the worst. Many times diagnoses were conflicting with other diagnoses. Joshua even noticed the same drug being prescribed under two different brand names.

We found it hard to tell from the dry text if the child’s behavior is a warning sign for worse issues or if it was the rotten caregivers/parents that triggered the behavior in the first place. A lot that was shared with us was red tape paperwork with lots data, plans of action but little real info to tell us who the child is and what he is like. But from what we have seen from the info you get in Oregon this is par for the course.

In the end we found ourselves looking a big list of highlighted worst behaviors. Facing and trying to work past those highlighted sections turned out to be harder than we had first thought and a very introspective process. There is this little voice in your head that says “Did you just turn up your nose?” or “You should be grateful for what you can get!” or “Starving people would love to eat that!” (Sorry wrong voice but you get our point.)

It boils down to this, adopting a child will change our life. We know that and are excited to embrace that 100% no question. But  are we willing to change our life even more beyond that HUGE step? What parenting experience are we aiming for/hoping for? What parenting experience are we willing to accept.

In reviewing these two boys we found ourselves reviewing our own commitment. Are we willing take on the ongoing needs of a specific behavioral issue or medical problem and all the stress and additional problems that come with it? Are we willing to give away our pets? Are we prepared to provide 24 hour line of sight parenting? Where is the magic line in the adoption sand that we as a family will not cross on our adoption journey?

So after a few days to think about all this “fun” stuff, we had a long face to face meeting at Boys and Girls aid with our caseworkers. We brought a long three page list of follow up questions. Turns out so did our caseworkers, which was great because as we descended down our list we found that we were all on the same page and had a lot of the same questions. It was a great feeling and helped to quiet a few of our fears down a bunch. The four of us had a very frank conversation about all of our concerns and what the DeSoren household and what our world might look like with either placement.

We got back fairly fast response on kiddo #1. And we quickly had 4-way conference call with the current foster dad. A few weeks later we had a follow up call with kiddo #1’s therapist. After the foster dad’s call everyone felt very positive and for about 2 weeks we thought we might have found the one. According to the foster dad kiddo #1 is high needs but making good progress and things look bright. But after the call with the therapist, the whole idea of adopting kiddo #1 seemed like a very bad idea and a very poor match to our family. The therapist told us a story of a child with very high needs and more coming down the road. The call with the therapist really soured our impression of the kiddo.

Kiddo #2 was about the same. After reading all of the additional information we got back we felt the kiddo was not ready to be placed in an adoptive home yet and would not thrive without some additional therapy first.

So in the end we walked away from both kids. But for about a month every day felt like we were almost at the finish line. We are both a bit emotionally sensitive about it right now. And are both dealing with it differently and in our own way. Both of us are dreading getting the adoption questions next week when we meet up with the extended family for turkey day.

The waiting is hard, but the ramping up towards the goal only to end up at square one is even worse. Its a huge high and then huge crash followed by a feeling that we have failed and will never find our kid. The thing we have to keep telling ourselves is this really is a matching process. And at the end we will find the right kid. In the end it’s about making a good match and successful family, we get that. But it’s hard not to want a faster solution.  It’s hard not to leap for a sure thing even when you know it’s not the best move for you or the child. It’s hard not to feel, our love will solve all the kiddo’s problems.

Oh for the old days were you could show up at the good old Minimum-Security Orphanarium and just pick the kid you want.

Dear Red Logo Video Streaming Company

Dear Red Logo Video Streaming Company,

First, thank you for your wonderful service, thanks to you we are canceling cable later this month and we will be saving a bunch of money!

But we are writing you today to make an unreasonable request. It mainly stems from our watching of LAW & ORDER SVU, Season 8, Episode 8, Cage. As you know from our viewing record, Anthony is a HUGE Law & Order fan.

The show in question was great, the acting wonderful and compelling, The story as you know is about two cute 8 year old foster kids fresh from disrupted adoption placements. One who who stabs Detective Stabler with a pen in the chest, and the other who sets fire to Detective Beck’s house to commit a murder/suicide so that she could be with Beck forever.

Unfortunately, the show was so good it caused Anthony to fall into a catatonic state, he was found hours later, with the remote in his hand, drooling on the bedroom floor in a fetal position shaking uncontrollably (well… not really).

You see, we are in the process of trying to be matched with a child for adoption. So this show hit home and punched all the fear buttons in Anthony’s head. Stephen Colbert would be proud as this episode kept the fear alive.

Anthony’s many expensive and highly sought after imaginary Doctors feel it would be best if he did not have access to watch anything about ultra-violent murdering adoptees who come from broken foster homes were the children are kept in cages and suffocated and then who later try to kill their adoptive parents.

So please remove any shows dealing with adoption from our instant viewing options, except if it’s a Disney movie.  Because as we all know all Disney movies are about some form of adoption (no really, think about it).

Thank you,

The DeSoren Family

PS, Please add Star Cops, Leverage and I Claudius to instant viewing…. Thank you.

One visit, one award & two trips

Fall has arrived and we are past our 1 year point on our home study. That anniversary is not marked by happy thoughts. In less then one year we will have to have a whole new one written for us. It’s frustrating it’s hard not to feel a bit of hopelessness. The whole process has started to feel like we have been packing the car for a great road trip for 2 years and can’t seem to back out of the driveway. But we keep trying to focus on the positives. Like  how amazing that road trip is going to be and how great our new caseworker has turned out to be.

But the big family news was Joshua’s mother stopping by for a one day quick visit as she traveled north into Washington. It caused a great flurry of activity in our house. We spent all day Saturday cleaning an prepping the house, Sam even cleaned his room! We aired out the future kido’s room, washed the sheets and made it a bit more adult with some nice fresh flowers. We always like it with family visits. (Yes Kristian, that is a hint)

Sunday morning Joshua drove out to the airport and picked up mom while Anthony cooked breakfast. German pancakes with homestyle potatoes. We spend the day chatting and ended the day with a nice homemade dinner (Anthony’s cheese manicotti and Anthony’s Grandmothers rassberry marshmallow dessert- YUMMY!). On Monday Joshua and Sam took mom to breakfast at one of our favorite breakfast spots. It was great visit and a prequel for our upcoming trip to Phoenix.

The following weekend Anthony attended Portland’s Coronation to watch our good friend Scott step-down as Portland’s Emperor and to help celebrate the Lovely Suzanne’s 10 year as a Rose Empress. During the Queen Mother of the America’s address, Anthony was called to the stage and bestowed the honorary title of Speaker Emeritus of the ICC Parliament for his work in helping with the founding of the International Court Systems Parliament and his for his service as it’s first Speaker of the House.

We have two fun trips currently planned coming up soon. For Thanksgiving all three of us (Anthony, Joshua & Sam) are flying down to Phoenix and then staying over for Joshua’s parents 30th wedding anniversary party.  It’s going to be a huge family get together so expect a long post and lots of photos from that upcoming adventure.

Then a week after we get back from Phoenix the two of us are flying back east to visit the mouse. Thanks to some great deals from Disney we have upgraded to deluxe dinning and have several great dinners planned at our favorite restaurants. We did downgrade to a value hotel the All Star Movies Resort to save some money, so we are sure will have some thoughts on that as well to post. We scooped up tickets to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, have Candle light processional tickets and are planning a 2 day side trip to Universal studios to visit the new Harry Potter land.  It’s going to be a very Christmasy trip.

GOBSMACKED

Gobsmacked: A wonderful british word meaning utterly astounded, completely dumbfounded,  shocked, being totally speechless, unable to think of anything to say.  In short a completely and utterly the perfect word to describe our moment of utter panic.

Two weeks ago we got a ebullition from one of the adoption photolistings we use to keep an eye out for potential kidos. But the profile was of a kido who lives in Washington. When we started our journey with our adoption agency, we decided to keep our search confined to Oregon only. But over the course of the year, the pool of available kidos has seemed to noticeably shrink. So we E-Mailed our caseworker to get her thoughts on the matter. We liked the look of this kido and wanted to know if perhaps now was the right time to expand our search into Washington as well.

Last Mondaywe got a long E-Mail response from our caseworker. She agreed that we should expand to look in Washington, and she gave us the 411 on how to do that correctly. Which is great, as we had just found another kido online from Washington that we like.

She also let us know that Oregon has changed the way they do adoption committees and we can now add a personal 1 page cover letter addressed directly to the caseworker from us that will be sent with our homestudy. There were more changes as well as how the meetings run and who approves us. But then the shoe dropped. She told us that she was being reassigned and we would be getting a new caseworker.

A new caseworker, just saying it makes our tummies do a loopy loop. Our current caseworker wrote our home study, has had over a year to get to know us. Not to sound corny, but  she has been there from the beginning.  Our caseworker is the person who champions us to the adoption committee and to the kido’s caseworker. Now we have someone who doesn’t even know us. Changing caseworkers is a scary concept and a even more scary reality. Some pretty crazy doubts started floating around in our heads.

So yesterday we both got off work early and headed down to Boys and Girls to meet our new caseworker. The meeting with was with both our old and new caseworker. In fact our old caseworker ran the meeting and did most of the talking.

She did a small recap on our first committee that we were sent to and then talked about the changes the Oregon adoption system is going through. The 3 panel committee is now gone and has been replaced by a much larger voting pool including the child’s caseworker & lawyer. The 2nd big change is if the kido is young enough and is has low special needs then they might not even call a committee. The caseworker just picks the family she feels is best. It’s all really new so don’t quote us as we most likely just said it wrong, we got the 10 minute version of a much bigger story. As we learn more we will post more.

We had the chance to look in the big adoption profile books and only found one kido to add to our list (maybe, it was an old profile). One of the things we were concerned  we did talk about to both of our caseworkers about was the lack of kidos to match with.  But it seems the pool of kids is not smaller but the pool of waiting families is getting larger and larger. Which is not so good for us, but good for the kidos looking for families. We did talk more about looking into Washington as a resource.

Our new caseworker seems nice,  she is going to stop by our house and do a home visit to get to know us and our world a little better. So we will have more to report on later as we all get to know each other better.  Our initial impressions are very positive and we look forward to working with her.

After the meeting we drove home the back way and had dinner at the old spaghetti factory for a large infusion of carbs and cheese.


Summer Jamtastic!

Over the winter and cold spring we have eaten every jar of jam in our pantry. Correction: Sam has eaten every jar of jam in our pantry. It seems he lives on jam, nutella and potato bread. So this year we have made a concerted effort to have enough jam to meet Sam’s addiction, any future kidos needs and have enough to give as Christmas presents.

Anthony did a web search and found a place called Rowell Brothers U-Pick. It’s way out down Scholls Ferry road and across the urban growth boundary. So for the past 2 months, every other weekend, we have been driving over to the westside of town and picking like mad. Blueberries 99¢ a pound and all other berries $1.25 a pound.

We now have a HUGE pile of canned goodness. We have: Strawberry jam, Loganberry jam, Blueberry jam, Raspberry jam, Marionberry jam, Apricot jam, Blackberry jam & Boysenberry jam. Anthony also made 3 fun jams this year: Watermelon jelly, Jalapeno jelly and a super hot Habanero jelly.

Not only does this serve to quench Sam’s addiction, making the jam has been a really fun family project. Every member of the family has helped in one way or another. For example; in our most resent last batch we tried to make jalapeno jelly, which we did succeed in. Both of us were working in tandem when Anthony looked down at his foot and noticed it had turned green. Seems when we opened the green food coloring some dried crusty’s dropped on the wood floor unnoticed by us at the time.

As we worked and walked around the kitchen in our bare feet we smeared that tiny amount of green dried crusty all over the floor and all over the bottoms of our feet. So before we could end the day, we had to do a super clean of the kitchen floor. Then and only then were we able to sit back relax and kick up our incredible hulk feet.

Berry season is finally over for us…. but we still have 2 buckets of blueberries to eat/cook/jam. We also have a request from Anthony’s boss for some homemade orange marmalade. But the next big cooking adventure should be apples. Anthony found his grandmothers recipe for the applesauce he was raised on, so we will be picking apples soon.

Our next big travel adventure is a thanksgiving trip to Phoenix. The whole Sorensen clan is gathering for thanksgiving and to celebrate Joshua’s parents 30th wedding anniversary. So we are taking the whole week off and are flying down and perhaps do a road trip to the Grand Canyon.

We booked our travel via Expeida, probably for the last time ever. Reason one Anthony is going to try and sell Disney travel as a part time thing so he will be booking with commissions for our future trips. Second Expedia totally screwed up our finances. They charged us for 3 trips, yet did not book or ticket anything. Joshua had to call the bank twice and Expedia twice to get the whole mess fixed. So Expedia is now dead to us.

The adoption front has gotten very quiet. We recently had to resubmit our financials and our fingerprints for our yearly update. We all had to get fingerprinted again. This time we did not go to Boys and Girls to have it done, but to a passport/fingerprinting place downtown. So funny to watch this little russian lady with a heavy accent try and take Sam’s fingerprints!

But other then that activity, all is quiet on the western front. Very few kido profiles are even available to review or to match with. We still have a few home study’s out a few kidos that we have not heard back from yet. Heres hoping no news is good news!

Father’s of the Bride

One of the first “officialish” questions we were asked when we started our adoption journey was what type of a child we were looking to adopt. We were asked this by the caseworker who ran the very first intro class we attended. She walked the room asked everyone in the room the same question. Mostly to weed out those who were not looking for kidos that fell into the special needs program (like healthy babies) so she could route them to the proper classes and programs. But that question keeps being asked of you over and over throughout the process until you get to committee and then the question changes to “Why this child?” and you are completely dumbfounded again.

When we were asked back then on day one we answered “We want a boy aged 4-8”, her reply was “Great! We have lots of those…” (this of course did not prove to be true). Back then I don’t think we could really answer the why yet. Our pat answer to why was a comic retort. We simply said we wanted to skip the diaper stage.But along the way we have learned more about ourselves and can now better answer the why.

For us there are several reasons why we want to adopt a little boy (or boys).  Some as simple and basic as the primal male need to have son. There is also more complicated and more noble reasons like the love we have found interacting and reaching for that teachable moment with kids of that age. And lastly the simple honest reasons that we are both still little boys ourselves. But, a new mind numbing  and wallet exploding reason to only adopt a boy came crashing into our world this weekend.

One of the cable tv stations was doing an afternoon of bride shows. Normally Joshua refuses to watch those types of shows as Anthony loves to watch and laugh at the Bridezillas. But this time the shows were not of out of control brides but of clueless brides getting surprise wedding makeovers. So both of us sat on the sofa and watched several episodes while playing on our iPads.

After the first episode, both of our inner diva’s came out and we were actively commenting on the poor dress choices, nasty colors, pig bridesmaids, ect. But the pinnacle moment came when one of the bride’s chose a tiara to wear and we both cried out in unison, “That’s not a tiara, that’s a headband!”

Later in the day after expressing our very vocal opinions over a $10k flower choice that we felt was just simply not enough, a slow and scary realization came to us both, that we would be bankrupted from the million dollar wedding that we would force upon our poor daughter.

Going to Committee – Part 2

“Please wait outside. The council will now meet in secret, debate your personality flaws, and come to a final decision.” Hairspray

Stress, nervousness and that sinking feeling you get in your tummy. Monday morning was a very emotional morning. The committee meeting was set for 1:00pm. Just to recap, we are not allowed to attend the meeting, only our caseworker. So we stupidly went to work and tried to function like it was a NORMAL day, which is was not. If there is a next time, we are taking the day off.

Here is a discription of how the committee process works, shamelessly stolen from www.afamilyforeverychild.org

The committee consists of three members who are usually DHS caseworkers, retired caseworkers, or social workers experienced in the adoption field.  The committee meets for three hours, usually 9-Noon or 1-4 p.m.  Occasionally it lasts longer, but not often.

Committee starts with a presentation of the child by the CW.  Sometimes the child’s foster parent, therapist, court appointed special advocate (CASA), or attorney, is also present and invited to tell about the child as well.  The CW usually brings pictures, or the child’s Life Book, so the committee can view photos.  The goal is for the committee to have a thorough understanding of the child’s identity, personality, and special needs.  The committee members may have questions during this time about the child based on what they hear, read, or otherwise observe.

 

Once the child has been presented, any representatives for the child, except the CW, are dismissed and the AWs for the families each have a turn telling the committee about the family they represent.  Again, the committee members may have questions for the AW based on what they hear or what they have read in the family’s home study.

The committee members then remark on or list the strengths they heard or read about each family and the concerns they have about each family.  Then they vote.  If the two junior members each vote for a different family, the chair must break the tie with a vote for one of those two families so that we leave committee with a decision.  We nearly always leave committee with a decision about who will adopt the child.

When committee ends, the families receive a call informing them whether or not they were selected by the committee.”

We got the call from our caseworker at 4:45pm, Anthony took the call on the cellphone as he was stepping on to the MAX.

The results, Second place. The committee liked us and it was a tough call. But they decided to place the kido with the other family due to our age and because we lived in Portland which would mean the kido would have a bigger change to deal with (new doctors, daycare, school, ect…). The other family lived close to where the kido was currently living.

We did get picked as the back up family. Which is like being the runner up at the Miss Americia contest…. if Miss American can not fulfill her duties… yadda yadda. If the other family backs out before they do the placement we would become the primary family. But at this stage it is very very very rare for the primary family to back out.

So we are back to square one. The whole event was emotionally like packing your bags, flying to Disneyland, walking up the front gate, getting your ticket out to get scanned and instantly being transported by some sort of super science fiction transporter device back to your desk at work and there is a large pile of nasty work to be done.

We both wanted an out for dinner and headed right to our own comfort foods. Anthony got taco bell, Josh had Spam and eggs..

Going to Committee – Part 1

Wednesday night on June 9th we got a phone call from our caseworker. She left us a voicemail. She wanted to let us know that if we approve we would be going to committee on a kido Monday afternoon June 14th. We called her back and quickly arranged a impromptu meeting at our house for 8:30pm that night.

We should add a little background information here. Normally potential families submit their homestudy’s, if the caseworker thinks the family might be good match then the caseworker sends a larger amount of information back to the family to review. Time passes and when the caseworker feels she has a few good matches she then sends one to three families to committee. From that committee one family is picked and one is picked as a backup family. This process takes time.

Well we submitted our homestudy on this kido about two months ago, and were not in the top group picked. In fact we never heard back or got any additional information from the caseworker, which is pretty typical. It seems the caseworker picked three families to go to committee and just this week two of those families dropped out of the process. Our caseworker was able to get the kidos caseworker to look at us again and she liked us enough to offer to send us to committee with the one remaining family. Another family tried to get in for the third spot, but the kido’s caseworker said no to them. So we might not be the top of the list, but we are not on the bottom.

Getting ready for a committee in 4 days is insane. We had to fill out one more questionnaire, which we did Thursday night after dinner and then about 40 emails the next morning back in forth between the two of us, polishing the questionnaire until it shined.

Saturday we drove around and got some last minute photos of some playgrounds and the local elementary school for our hello book (The hello book will be given to the kido IF we are selected Monday).  The rest of the weekend was spend trying very hard not to think about Monday. We played video games, watched tons of TV, even redecorated a bathroom.

Because  of the speed of the this and the emotions that are happening right now, we have decided not to go public with this part of our adoption story until it’s over. We decided not to post on Facebook or tell friends yet. No reason to get anyone excited until we know for sure. It’s not uncommon to go to committee several times before you are selected and this is only our first time.

We don’t get to go to the committee meeting, only the 3 committee members and the caseworkers involved will be present. We did the hand off of the Hello book to our caseworker Sunday night. We could tell she was picking her words very carefully with us not to raise or lower our hopes any. She did say all the hard work was done and it will be down to which family can offer more to the kido. Reading online seems to make us think they can be selected over the smallest things.

It’s really hard not to doubt yourself in a time like this. But we keep trying to push those type of thoughts away. Pretty sure Monday is going to be a hard and emotional day for us no matter what the out come. But we are really trying to see this in a good light, even if we are not picked this will give us some really good information for next time.

Committee meeting is at 1:30pm and should last about 3 hours, so by 4:30pm on Monday the 14th 2010 we should be getting a phone call that may change our lives forever.

Catch-Up

We have been fairly busy lately and have fallen way behind in our family blog. So this is our official catch up blog.

In April we had Anthony’s Nephew come up for a one night visit. We did taco night and then went out and watched a movie. One night was just too short and we are all looking forward to his next visit.

His visit would have been longer but we had a preplanned long weekend trip planned. We drove down to Lincoln city for the weekend. We stayed at the Coho lodge. Which was a nice hotel we had a great ocean front room, but we hated the bed. We have become so spoiled on our latex mattress that sleeping on a traditional wire spring bed feels like sleeping on concrete.

Saturday morning after a horrible breakfast at Lil Sambo’s, We normally eat at Pig & Pancake, but we saw this place, it looked family friendly, so we took a risk. We walked in and were quickly promptly ignored by the staff member standing at the podium. Several minutes later anthoer hostess showed up and took us to our table. The restaurant was very very empty (our first warning), the staff out numbered the diners. Turned out the person with their back to us, ignoring us was a new in training waiter, so we let it go.

The hostess asked us if we would like drinks. Anthony ordered a Earl Grey tea, that this dumbfounded look washed over her face, then without asking us, walked away from the table, across the room and started yelling at the head waiter asking what Orange Oregon tea was. He shouted back that he had no idea but would ask us. He the walked over and softly asked us. Then took 3 steps away from the table and yelled back to hostess that it was Earl Grey. The only thing we could think was they were use to louder restaurant, that our they though we were deaf.

Our food came out and was promptly delivered to the wrong table (being one of only 3 tables with customers we stood amazed, in fact we should have stood up and walked out). The waiter realized he screwed up after he the other table complained. He took our food and scampered back in to the kitchen (more yelling took place) then 5 mins later the same plates came to our table.

Our food was stone cold. And the waiter quickly departed and did no follow up checks with our table. Perhaps he was worried about what we would say…. and he would have been right. Anthony’s cold hash browns were burnt, not a speck of white in them. Joshua’s biscuits and gravy was cold kindergarten paste congealed over two flour hockey pucks. We were starving so we forced back what we could off our plates Even if the food would have been hot, it would have been dull cafeteria food at best.

The worst was the name association of the of the place. We were drawn to the restaurant because it looked like a fun family place. Again doing a little pre-check for our future kido. We found out that it used to be called Lil “Black” Sambo’s, they had a little mini newsletter explaining the history of the restaurant. We didn’t take the newletter but here is what Wikipedia says about the book the restaurant was named after: “The book has a controversial history. The original illustrations by Bannerman showed a caricatured Southern Indian or Tamil child. The story may have contributed to the use of the word “sambo” as a racial slur. The book’s success led to many pirated, inexpensive, widely available versions that incorporated popular stereotypes of “black” people. In 1932 Langston Hughes criticized Little Black Sambo as a typical “pickaninny” storybook which was hurtful to black children, and gradually the book disappeared from lists of recommended stories for children.

Shortly after breakfast Anthony started to feel sick. Which was not surprising. So for most of Saturday afternoon, Anthony tried to sleep while Joshua did a little shopping.

Later that night we drove up to the Spirit Mt. Casino and got to see Cyndi Lauper live concert. Our seats were way in the back of the room, but for $15.00 each for a 2 hour concert, it was a great deal.

The show was really loud and focused more on her rock side then her softer catalogue which we both love. We saw at least 10 other people we knew from the Rose Court and Portland GLBT Community, some who we had not seen in years, it was a nice surprise treat.

The end of the month saw Anthony finally getting his iPad. We waited in line for Joshua’s wi-fi version, and hated it. So we preordered Anthony’s 3G version. We both still love them and they are in our hands most of the time.

On the adoption front, since our last post we have sent in about 4 home studies. There really seems to be no kidos out there that fit our target range. Which is a real bittersweet thing. Sad for us, happy that less kids are displacing from their homes.

iWeekend

Saturday morning we got up early and drove to downtown Portland. Plugged the parking meter, entered Pioneer Place mall and then got in line. Yes, we decided to be early adopters of Apple’s new iPad.

We started the day thinking we had been smart. After seeing the long lines for other Apple product launches in the past we decided to do an online reservation to reserve our iPad and make the process easy. Much to our dismay the reserved line snaked all the way down to the food court. Total travel time from the end of the line to the front took us over one hour. And that hour was quite the experience, as it seemed like several of the people inline had decided to save money up for their iPad by not “wasting” money on deodorant, toothpaste or showers.

But it wasn’t all bad, Apple was handing out free water and snacks to keep the crowds happy and there was a huge amount of excitement and energy in the line, It was computer geek nirvana.

When we got to the front of the line we were escorted in by our personal sales person. He asked if we wanted to play with one before we bought it, we said no. We tossed him our list of accessory needs and our credit card. Moments later we were making a beeline out of the mall, to our car clutching our new prized possession.

What is it like? Well it’s truly magical. It quite simply lives up to all of the hype. The iPad just screams to be touched and used. It makes surfing the web brand new. Our laptop has almost been replaced in one fatal move. We spent most of the day learning and exploring our new device. We also watched the new episode of Doctor who. It was a double geek day.

Then that evening Anthony got all dressed up in on of his tuxedos and headed back downtown to co-host the 34th annual Rosebud and Thorn Pageant. Rosebud and Thorn is the longest running GLBT youth pageant in the world. Back when Anthony was a “youth” he held the title as Thorn 17.

It was a great show, so amazing to see the next leaders of the GLBT community shine and inspire everyone in attendance.

The pageant was held in a all night, all ages dance club. Anthony normally hits the sheets no later then 10:30pm, long gone are the late nights of dancing until dawn. His co-host, the Lovely Suzanne had just flown in from New York City that same day, so both of them were feeling it when the show started late at 11:40pm ended at 2:30am.

Sunday – Anthony spent recovering from being up to 4am while Joshua played with his iPad and started cleaning the house in anticipation of a visit from Anthony’s nephew who will be staying over for one night this week.

On the adoption front, it looks like the dry spell for children’s profiles might be over. After months of not having any kido profiles to even look at, today our caseworker set over two new profiles. So fingers crossed.

Next weekend: We will be off to the beach to celebrate our belated anniversary with a weekend in Lincoln city and a Cyndi Lauper concert.

Our New Addiction

The big thing about adoption that you never really see in the movies or on TV is the waiting. It’s horrible, it can emotionally sneak up on you at any moment and grab onto any insecurity you might have about the process or yourself and give you a good shake. So with our child respite care commitment recently coming to an end. We both were a little apprehensive about what to do on the weekends to stay active and not brood about the the unending waiting.

Several months ago we helped a friend out with a big Estate/Moving Sale. We had a lot of fun holding the sale. So we decided to venture out and try it from the buyers point of view.

Our first Saturday out we spent more on gas and Starbucks then shopping. We quickly found the difference between an a estate sale and garage sale. Completely two different worlds of junk. At the end of the day when we got home and reviewed our pile-o-treasure and we found we only picked up an old metal meat grinder for $1.00 and 1976 Cheese fondue set in wonderful 70’s orange for $9.00. The Fondue pot proved to be the big find of the day, forcing us to buy $40.00 in cheese that night for 2 fondue nights in a row (cheese is king in our house).

Our second week we did a bit better, skipping the garage sales all together we scored a stainless steel Samsung formal chopstick set for $15.00 and some very nice cake decorating knifes for 50¢. We also stopped and treated ourselves to a nice lunch out.

This last weekend we found a 1980’s 1902 Lewis and Clark World’s fair poster/map (50¢), a all-in-one apple slicer and corer device ($3.50) (which means homemade apple sauce this year) and a large stack of choose your own adventure books for the future kido’s book shelf (.25¢ each)

So far we have been pretty picky (like normal) and don’t buy very much stuff. We tend to spend more on Starbucks, Gas and Lunch then we do at the sales. But it’s still fun to see other peoples houses and rummage though their stuff (sometimes a bit creepy). It’s also nice to see all the different neighborhoods in the area.

Chuck E. Cheese

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This past Saturday was Shawn’s 9th birthday party. We arrived at right on time for the party, gathered up the gifts from the trunk of the car and walked into the madness. The first thing you notice is the volume. It’s loud, really really loud. Music, games, children yelling and playing music, coin dispensers clinking, ect. It kinda made us take a step back and question if this was going to be a good day or not.

As we walked in we passed through the kid check gateway, having no kids we were waved right in. If you come in with a child in tow, they number you and the child with a matching number. To get the kid out your number must match.

After passing through the gateway, we wandered over to the party area. We didn’t see Shawn or Sara anywhere. There was a  large balloon with his name on it floating over one of the revered banquet tables, but we completely missed this detail. After a few moments of panic that we might be at the wrong location, Sara arrived with Shawn, Shawn’s brother Donny (age 5) and Donny’s brother Ram (age 3), all of the party treats, a huge spiderman cake and a very tired look on her face. She was sick.

After we all got settled at the banquet table we dug out our online coupons walked over to the token lady and came back with 3 buckets of tokens. We each took a huge pocket full and gave a good pile to Sam. We spent most of the party feeding tokens to the three boys and the other party guests.

When we got back to table, most of the other guests had arrived. The gift pile as large and Shawn was in full smile mode. Once all the kids were settled, the pizza arrived. The kids all seems to enjoy it, but it was greasy cardboard pizza. In fact, later that night, a few of the kids had tummy aches, and our bets are on the pizza. Little Ram, who is a big eater normally, helped himself to 5 slices on his plate. Each piece was in a different stage of consumption.

It was about now we had our first child freak out moment. Chuck E Cheese, the giant rat, made his first appearance. The rat walked out and wandered round the room greeting the children. Little Ram completely freaked out and needed constant reassurance that the rat was not going to eat him. It was really hard not to laugh as it was too cute.

The Chuck E Cheese and his helpers then crowned each of the birthday kids (there were 3, one who was also in full Rat terror mode, bawling uncontrollably). They then gave each birthday kido a medal and then oversaw the cake lighting and ceremony. Sam was on video duty and Anthony was on photo duty.

Shawn had a really cool spiderman cake. It had this really cool looking black frosting. Unfortunately when the younger party goers got their cake, and the cake naturally got all over there faces, hands, arms, hair & clothing, the black frosting left stains (oops!). But they loved it!

Once the cake was devoured, it was present time.  We got Shawn a kid’s microscope set (which got a great face reaction) and the complete Captain Underpants book collection. He got quite a few board games, 3 or 4 small lego sets and a really cool drawing set.

After presents the kids all ran off with their little cups of tokens to play. Anthony started to help Sara clean up. After the banquet table was all cleaned up, all of us helped Sara compress all the presents, leftover cake and goodies to a booth table near by.

Joshua took Donny and Ram out to play in the little kid area. This mostly involved standing under the over head play tubes keeping an eye out for Ram, who LOVED the overhead tube play area and decided to take up permanent residence in it.

For the next hour we took turns sitting at the table and chatting with Sara (who was sick) and checking on the little ones. Sam played big brother and babysitter to one of the party guests who’s mom had dropped him off alone.

It was right about then we had our second and final child breakdown. Donny came running back the banquet area to get more tokens and noticed that everyone was apparently gone. He started to cry, lucky Sara was right there and scooped him up and reassured him and we had only moved to a smaller table near by.

We don’t know if this location is typical of all of the other locations, but most of the games and video games were focused around getting ticket stubs. There were not a lot of just plain video games. The ticket game concept is you pour token after token into the machine and get a couple tickets.

Before you leave you cash in your tickets for very very cheap prizes (dollar tree would be embarrassed to carry these items). Shawn walked out with a face painting kit and Donny got a plastic spoon, yes really a plastic spoon. Both of them thought they were the coolest and grandest prizes in the world, their little faces beamed with joy and pride!  So kido happiness mission accomplished. Financial prudence… well not so good. Each prize takes a hundred tickets and you only get a few tickets for each .25 token. Even with the coupons we printed out at home we dumped a bundle.

All in all a REALLY fun day. Like each of our experiences with Shawn, we take little mental notes on how we would do things with our future kido.  When it comes to Chuck E Cheese, we are a bit torn. The kids clearly had a blast, but the greasy food and money pit games make us wonder if when we are in the parent seat if this will be the venue we would pick. Mr. Cheese seems to have one goal and that is getting all the parents money.

But one thing was SUPER clear. Sara had given Shawn the best birthday party ever!

My Amazon.com Wish List

The big chocolate, tech and cheese weekend.

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This past weekend we celebrated the annual anniversary of Anthony’s 21st birthday. After the traditional birthday gifts of kitchen wares and Dr. Who videos, we headed down to Frys. Because not only was it Anthony’s birthday weekend, but it was also payday weekend.

Since moving to the new house we have wanted to condense all of our multiple computers backups and music and photos to one safe location, a home server. This was the weekend we decided to make it happen.

We picked up two 1 Terabyte drives and a powerline networking kit. Because the house is rented and we
do not want wires running around the house, we have been using a wireless network for all of our computers and devices. But since the  home for our server is our bedroom closet, wireless might not be the best way. So we had to find a work around. The answer turned out to be a NETGEAR XAVB101 Powerline AV Ethernet Adapter Kit. We plugged one down stairs into our network switch then the other upstairs with the server. Then poof, a instant 85 Mbps wired connection. We were even able to wire in our bedroom desktop to a wired connection point.

We spent most of the day playing at Frys, drooling over Macbook air’s and super flat TV’s. We then drove home, did a quick change and then headed downtown to the Melting Pot (a fondue restaurant) for Anthony’s birthday dinner.

If you have never been it is a real fun dinner experience. Once you are seated the hostess turns on your own personal cook top with fondue pot, which is built right into your table. We should also mention that our restaurant curse held up here as well. It is a strange curse we somehow acquired, but it seems that every restaurant we go to, we get seated by the bathroom or the kitchen. This time it was the kitchen, but it did not ruin our meal.

We ordered the “big night out” which comes with four courses. It started with an alpine cheese fondue, which was prepared tableside. Then a yummy alpine salad. Then for the main course they bring out a big pot of boiling broth, which goes on your cook top. With the broth we got a large tray of assorted raw meats, veggies and 10 different sauces. You skewer your choose of meat and then stick the skewer the pot to cook for a min or 2. Joshua loved the sausage and Anthony loved the duck!

For dessert we have the flaming turtle. Which starts with a big bowl of melted chocolate. Then the server dumps in pecans and a good helping of 151 rum, which is set aflame. To dip in the chocolate they brought out a large plate of cheesecake, brownie squares, strawberries, sliced banana, pound cake, rice crispy treats and 2 different types of marshmallows. One rolled in graham cracker on rolled in oreo cookie. It was a great birthday feast, we both exited the restaurant stuffed.

On Sunday Shawn came over for his weekly visit. Joshua and Shawn worked on setting up our new home server. Shawn also helped Anthony install the powerline routers and help run the wires to the server home. Shawn is really focused on technology. Mostly in the form known as video games and TV. So we decided a little refocusing of that energy might be good in the long run. The night before Joshua had installed all the next hardware, but all of the software install and tweaking still needed to be done.

Joshua and Shawn hooked up our 61 inch TV (aka the biggest shiny object) in the living room to the server and spend the whole morning installing and playing with the server. After lunch and quiet time we cleaned the house up and then drove over to Red Robin for a surprise party for Shawn to celebrate his graduation from lifeworks into mainstream elementary school.

There was one really bittersweet moment during dinner, echoing our last post on the waiting game blues. The family seated directly across from us (directly behind Shawn), across from the bathroom door (see curse above) was a two dad family with 2 little boys ages 2 and 4. You know that perfect picture of what we want to be/have for our own family.

So there we were celebrating Shawn (and Sara’s) big graduation and each time we looked at them we got a double gut shot of a future we have been working so hard for. These melancholy feelings were of course was immediately masked by application of the short walk next door to the world market. For a large basket of chocolates, bubble up soda and jelly babies.

My Amazon.com Wish List

Waiting…

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WAITING: To stay or rest in expectation; to stop or remain stationary till the arrival of some person or event; to rest in patience; to stay; not to depart.

Since deciding to proceed with our adoption, two years have gone by. Months of taking classes, filling out forms, moving and home nesting. We are at the point where all we have to do is sit and wait.  There is nothing we can do to speed the process. Just sit and wait without any time-line.

We have not read much online about what to do with ourselves during this waiting time. All the books seem to make light of. They say it sucks and to keep busy. But that is about it. So far we have found it to be a wibbly wobbly timey wimey ball of emotion;. Fear, panic, happiness, joy and sadness.

We have tried to create little projects for us to work on to keep our minds busy and not sulk. Joshua is building a new house computer server for all of our music & video files. Anthony has been working on a photo filled welcome book for the kiddo and planning a huge model railroad system on paper, “The Samuel Sorensen Memorial Train Set”. Anthony plans building it in the third bedroom, once Sam leaves the nest or we convince/blackmail another family member to take Sam in. But the sheer costs of Anthony’s imagined train set and Joshua’s petabyte server farm might be more then we can handle or afford.

Christmas was another great distraction. We had lots of commitments and busy schedules to fill up the down time. But they were also a big emotional reminder of that large empty kids room down the hall and of the large empty places around the Christmas tree.

To recap, since our home study was completed and sent out, we have had two kiddos’ caseworkers who have shown a little interest in us. But after we had a chance to learn a bit more about the kiddos and talk with our caseworker we realized we would not be a good match either kiddo. Even knowing that this is all part of the process, the emotional impact of these two semi-matches was still a big fast emotional warm fuzzy high followed by a lingering cold prickly low.

We are both becoming a little somber towards the entire adoption process. The hopeful spring matching is looking miles and miles away. Our faith that we will get any matches at all is at a low point. Our caseworker has told us not to worry, that we have a great home study and it’s all just part of the process. But that doesn’t stop of from being nervous, worried and simply hating this stage.

Sam (Joshua’s younger brother) has become the vessel for some of our restlessness. He lost his job right before Thanksgiving, and we have been covering his rent and feeding him for free (sorta) now for 3 months. Money is getting tighter and tighter because of this and Sam has been verbally reminded of his responsibilities more than once. A few times by both of us, at the same time, both guns blazing. But in the end, Sam is not the villain. It’s our own fears, angers and self doubts are running amuck in our little brains.

• Are we good enough?

• Are we being quietly discriminated out of the matching pool?

• Will we ever get a good match?

• Did we/I do something to mess this up?

There is also a real fear lingering in the back of our minds that all of this work and waiting will be for nothing. Just like a trip to Macaroni grill…

<INSERT GROOVY FLASHBACK SEQUENCE HERE>

 

About 4 years ago, we headed downtown for dinner at Macaroni’s grill. When we arrived the hostess gave us one of those buzzy light-up waiting sticks and we sat down in the waiting area, directly across from the hostess booth and waited… And waited… And waited… We were not in a hurry, we chatted and relaxed in the nice booth they had there.

After 45 minutes the hunger really kicked in, so we walked up to the desk and asked if they had forgotten us. They said no and apologized for the delay. So we sat down again in the waiting area with our buzzy light-up waiting stick and waited, and waited and waited.  20 minutes later, we started to notice new people being seated in to the preferred leather booth seating area after only waiting a few moments. So we walked up again and asked how much longer it would be.

Then the hostess who had been standing directly in front of us for 65 minutes, and 20 minutes earlier apologized to us, told us that they tried to seat us a long time ago but since we had left it was clearly our fault. “When the stick goes off you need to come up to the check in desk, Sir.” But our stick had not gone off.

But, luckily out of the kindness of her heart, even though “WE” had clearly messed up, she would help us out by getting us seated next. Us being us, accepted it and sat back down and waited some more with the smell of warm Italian butter (go on ask what “Italian” butter is..) in the air around us….

10 minutes and several other customers later the “next table” turned out to be all the way in the back room, in the private party area. They said us down at a tiny 2 top cocktail table, completely filled with restaurant table advertising clutter (and Italian butter) and then proceeded to seat a group of 30 hyperactive vociferous preteen girls all around us at the larger tables.

35 seconds later we were walking out the front door of the restaurant very, very mad. Mad at Macaroni grill and mad at ourselves for just taking it and not raising a fuse. Mad that we didn’t do something highly inappropriate with our defective buzzy light-up waiting stick. After smelling Italian food & Italian butter for 2 hours we ended up eating Taco Bell take away.

The gist of our little flashback is we don’t want Taco Bell this time. The fear of this all being for nothing is very much in our minds daily. That fear doesn’t go away, that fear is always hiding in every conversation and every quiet moment.

But that leads to our other chief problem.  There is no one to be frustrated at. No villain to defeat or overcome to achieve victory. No restaurant hostess to yell at or angry letter to write. Our caseworker has done a great job for us and we have a great agency. We can’t be mad at the kiddos’ overworked caseworkers as they are working hard to protect those kiddos. So we have no legitimate person or thing to loath and project our frustrations on. And that in itself is frustrating.

So we continue to wait.


A Christmas letter from the DeSoren Family

Fruit cake

Our Christmas tree is up and decorated, the front yard is ablaze with thousands of LCD lights, the holiday season is back. Anthony has once again turned our home into a Fudge, Divinity, and Fruitcake factory. If that wasn’t bad enough, this year Anthony has shamelessly stolen the classic Sorensen family chocolate chip pumpkin cookie recipe and has added that to the production line up as well. There is no doubt that Christmas as come to the house.

We have had a big full year. We have moved out of Portland, survived Hurricane Rick at sea and managed to keep a roof over Sam’s head for another year.

But our biggest news this year is that our adoption home study was completed in September and more importantly paid off.

We have made it though the classes and background checks and all the inspections. We are right on target for adopting a kiddo or kiddos sometime in 2010 and have made it to the matching stage. Our caseworker has been sending our home study to potential kiddos caseworkers that we have an interest in. If the kiddos case worker likes what they see in us, then we get some more information about the kiddo sent back for us to review. It’s like exchanging business cards. Right now we have our home study out for about 12 different kiddos and sibling groups. So far we have had additional information come back twice. Sadly both times, the three of us (us and our own case worker) did not feel it was a good match.

So far the waiting & matching process is proving to be a very hard and emotional process.

TROPICAL WEATHER2We have been keep trying to find adventures and projects to keep us distracted. The biggest adventure was a 7 day cruise to Mexico. Neither of us had been on a cruise before and neither of us had ever been on a cruise in the middle of a hurricane.

So we were able to check two items off our bucket list. You can read all about our adventure with Hurricane Rick and our Mexican cruise at our family website (click here). We had quite the adventure!

Now is also a good time in our Christmas letter that we should also mention that we have made very good progress this year in disproving the slanderous rumor and lie that has been spread among our family and friends that “we” have some sort of Disney theme park “addiction”. Just so you all know and for the record, we did NOT make our fall pilgrimage to Disney World as we have been doing annually for the past few years. Furthermore, we only visited Disneyland twice this year, only once in the spring for our anniversary and only once in the fall as a tie in to the cruise. Clearly, we have proven beyond any shadow of a doubt, that we don’t have a mouse addiction. And the rumor that Anthony has already started planning our future kiddos first trip and we are hopeing to have as many family and friends with us for a large grand gathering is also just a rumor.. until we send the invites out.

During the Spring we took a long six week parenting class in Love and Logic. Our caseworker recommended it as it would give us some great parenting tools to us with our future kiddo. We loved the class! If you are a parent, grandparent, teacher or babysitter you need to take this class!

They teach a real innovative way to help your kiddo make little mistakes as kids when it’s safe. Rather then big mistakes when they are older and it is much more life shattering. It also helps parents let the kids to the hard work when it comes to parenting, meaning make the kids think and learn from their actions and behavior rather then having the parents worry, fret and helicopter over the kids which only helps on setting them up for failure as adults.  We find ourselves using the techniques every week, and they work!

CIMG0037.JPGWe have been very blessed this past year to have been able to provide some child respite care on our weekends. Our adoption caseworker got us connected with a young mother and her son who was recently placed with her.

Every Sunday we have had an 8 year old boy dropped off at our front door and the fun begins! We get to play games, go on hikes, cook, go swimming, work on science projects, go to OMSI, or work on spelling words. Sometimes we get more then one kiddo. Recently, we had three at once, a 8 year old, a 5 year old and a 3 year old.

Helping out and being apart of this kiddos life has been a great learning experience for us. A lot of our posts online at www.desoren.com this year have been based on the experiences we have had with him. It has been very rewarding knowing that we are helping while getting some hands on experience with special needs adopted kids. More then once we have been able to draw on some experience with him when looking at potential kidos profiles. That and he is just a super cool kid, we have been very lucky!

At the beginning of the year, Joshua received a promotion and new job position at Banfield as a Jr. Pricing Analyst. He is currently in the process of moving positions again at Banfield. The company apprently thinks of him as upwardly mobile and a good key player.  Joshua also has about one and a half years to go still on his degree in accounting from the University of Phoenix.

Anthony is still working at Minuteman Press as a production designer. He recently step-downed as Speaker of the House for the ICS International Parliament. Anthony was one of the key founders of their new Parliament which is comprised of 70 non-profit chapters within the International Court System. The I.C.S. is a GLTB non-profit group that raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity annually across Canada, Mexico and the USA.

June 2010 will be mark 2 years of living with Sam. His short stay seems to be getting more and more permeant. Right now, Sam is looking for a job. A few weeks before Thanksgiving he was laid off from Safeway. Which is currently being looked upon as a mixed blessing. It has made things bit harder for us, as we had to cover everyone’s expenses. But he was stuck in bad job, so it really is for the best. The goal is for him to get in to a better job with more pay and hours or at least enrolled in school by January.

Our latest big adventure was having to move to a new home. Right after we booked and paid for our Mexico vacation, our landlord called us and gave us the bad news that she needed to sell the house. This set us into a real panic. With our home study freshly completed and paid for, moving was the last thing we wanted to do. Getting a good home for our kiddo was something we had really invested a lot of time and energy in to the first time around. Trying to do it again and quickly, was a huge task to hit us with.

Luckily, we quickly got a great real estate agent who was a friend and she got us in touch with a great loan officer. With their help we looked into our options and the possibilities of buying the house from our landlord and/or buying a new home. But in the end we just did not have the time to get together the financing that we would need. Home ownership is in our life plan, it just wasn’t expected right after paying for a holiday and adoption.

After we got back from our hurricane cruise, we had about a month to look for a new house that would meet our needs and our future kiddos. We found a great new-construction corner two story townhouse in Happy Valley. Happy Valley is just outside the Portland city limits in Clackamas county near Oregon’s largest indoor mall Clackamas Town Center, just north of Oregon City and the end of the Oregon trail.

The house has amazing views, 3 bedrooms & 2.5 bathrooms. Gas everything and the cats love the carpeted second floor. Their new favorite spot to lounge is the top of stairs, it gives then a good view of the whole house.

The new house is the furthest from downtown Portland that we have ever lived. Seems each time we move, we move farther away from downtown. But, one of the big plusses is it is right on the new Tri-met greenline lightrail system. So both of our workplaces and downtown are just a short train ride way. We also found out that our new elementary school looks to be a much better school for our future kiddo. It scored outstanding in every category on it’s 2008-2009 school report card.

Our new house has many plusses over our old house, the biggest being it’s cheaper! The new little worry is that because this place is so nice we might get spoiled and have a hard time finding our next place. But it’s something we are willing to risk!

So from our new home A.K.A. the fruit cake production factory… from both of us to all of you

Merry Christmas!

Joshua & Anthony

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2 to the Power of 3

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Sunday brought us our weekly visit with Shawn. Shortly after 9:00am the door bell rang. Anthony walked over to the door and opened in. In walked Shawn, followed by Donny (Shawn’s 5 year brother) followed by Ram (Donny’s adopted brother age 3), followed by a weary looking Sara.

It was her weekend to host Donny for one of his regular visits with his big brother Shawn. Donny lives with his forever family up in Seattle. On this visit he came down with his new adopted brother Ram.

After we got all the coats and shoes off, Ram announced that he was hungry. All three had already eaten breakfast, but Ram was still hungry. Something that would be a theme all day long.  So we quickly got three table settings out and a fast breakfast of cheerios and juice.  Ram had his with milk, but Donny preferred them dry which was fine but he had a hard time keeping the dry cheerios on his spoon. So as each cheerio slid off and on to the floor, Claudius (one of our cats) sprung to action. So picture this if you can, 2 cute boys eating a 2nd breakfast while a large fat cat is batting and chasing dry cheerio’s underfoot on the hardwood floor much to the amusement of both of them.

After 2nd breakfast Shawn headed off to Sam’s room to talk Star Wars while other two boys discovered the kiddo’s room and more importantly the Legos. After about an hour of Legos and books, we got the boys downstairs and started to roll out some gingerbread dough. Joshua and Shawn loaded up in the car and headed to Fred Meyers to get some icing while Anthony, Donny and Ram all played with the cookie dough and cut out gingerbread men.

Once they were cooked and cooled we sat each kid at the table and the frosting adventure began. Each of the boys did a great job.  But keeping the icing tip out of Rams mouth was real trick. After all the cookies were decorated, they were put away harden up and Joshua started to make lunch of everyone. Anthony took the boys and they all curled up and watched 101 Dalmatians while lunch cooked.

After a great lunch and seconds and thirds for Ram, we headed off for quiet time. We divided the boys up into 3 bedrooms. Ram in the master bedroom, Donny in the kid room, and Shawn in Sam’s room. Anthony read to Ram who cried a few tears because he didn’t want to take a nap, he wanted to eat cookies. It took about 10 minutes of reading and Ram as snoring up a storm. Joshua read to Donny and he too was out like a light.

When quiet time was over Shawn played with Sam’s game boy for his video game time. But both of his brothers were dead asleep and way too cute to wake up. Ram as also a little sick so the extra sleep time for him was a good thing.

We woke the boys up one at a time, first Donny, then Ram We gave them a snack, made sure everyone had restroom break, got shoes back on and coats zipped up. We then matched single file out the car and began the loading and strapping in process. 3 kids & two booster seats later, 3 plates of cookies load each with a special one each child had picked for Santa. And we were ready for takeoff.

Normally this is where our weekly blog ends. But not this time… Because of the seating arrangements there was only room in the car for one adult. The sucker.. err..  lucky person was Anthony.

Right past Oregon City on I-205, Ram from the back seat announces in a clear LOUD voice, “I need to go potty!”. So Anthony took the next exit and unpacked the kids and snuck in the backdoor of a McDonalds and marched them quickly into the restroom. Shawn ran right in to the only stall and locked himself to do his business. The two younger boys both instantly became nude… They dropped their little pants to the floor yanked their shirts both up to their chins and begin the bound leg penguin wiggle dance over to urinal, both boys fighting for who gets to do number 1 first. Anthony quickly tried to shut the bathroom door, to block the view of the nude review while laughing uncontrollably.

We had a wonderful time with the 3 boys. It is defiantly a day that will help us on our path to adoption.

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Christmas • Phase 1

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Saturday became our official unpacked day. We got the kido’s room bunk beds rebuild and opened and put away the last moving box. Yeah we are here at last!

Sunday morning, Joshua woke up sick. So when Shawn came over for his normal Sunday we have to quickly come up with some non-Joshua activities.

First thing we worked on was Shawn’s spelling test that he had the following day. He came with a list of works and Anthony and Sam worked with him for a good hour on learning the spelling of the 10 words on his test. We made a game of it.

After the spelling we all bundled up in heavy clothing and headed outside. In our old neighborhood holiday lights were a mandatory event.  The whole HOA became a lighted Christmas wonderland as each house tried to outdo each other. Last year we spent a small fortune trying to keep up with the Jones. Well this year in our new HOA, a few people put a few lights out… which meant we would at last be the Kings of Christmas.

Anthony and Shawn carried out the 3 huge red and green plastic storage bins. We popped them open and started to inventory our goodies.

Sam untangled the big net lights and with Shawn’s help they wired up a big evergreen tree in our front lawn. Anthony ran the ground curb lights and decorated the smaller bushed. It was really really cold. So we took a break inside and Sam and Shawn made some hot coco for us all. After are break we headed outside to finish up. We got all the lawn decorated, but it was just too cold to work on the house lights, that and Joshua really wanted to do them. So we decided to wait on the house light for when Joshua felt better and we headed inside for some video game time and lunch.

After a nice lunch of Anthony’s homemade burritos we had quiet time. Quiet time was a bit harder for Shawn this time around. Shawn refuses to take an afternoon nap, so we invented quiet time were everyone goes to their bedrooms for 30-40 minutes to read or nap. Since Joshua was in the master bedroom being sick Anthony stayed down stairs.  Normally Shawn listens to read along books or reads some of the kid books we have.

But Anthony, being down stairs, proved to be a big temptation. So we had several trips downstairs to get a sneak peek at the TV… ahhh I mean to use the bathroom and ask about headphones and ask how long it has been  and to use the bathroom again.

On the last trip down the stairs Anthony headed up with Shawn and gave him some legos to build, which did the trick. After about 20 minutes longer than normal quiet time Anthony checked in on Shawn and he was intensely building. The two of them played for a bit before Shawn asks “When is quiet time over?” it was very cute.

We headed down stairs and watched an episode of Wallace and Gromit, The wrong trousers. We then worked a bit more on the spelling words.  Several of the words he knew all of the letters, but just had a hard time getting them in order. So we moved over to our big dry erase board and he wrote each word he missed out and we tried different letter combinations until he got it correct.

By the time it was time to go Shawn had each word down pat. Fingers crossed for his test!

UPDATE He only missed one word!

The Great November Update

2005-02-27MtscottDowntown_3This month ended in a bang for us. First we helped out a friend by holding a huge estate sale for her, and then we had to move ourselves to our new home. It feels like we have been packing and moving for 4 weeks now…

Our friend could be considered a border-line hoarder. But she hoards good stuff, rather than garbage like some of those poor people on Hoarders (A&E TV Show). Just like us she had to move and was already dealing with enough stress in her life. She asked us if we would help out. So she took what she wanted to keep and left the rest for us to sell.

The sale was a huge amount of work and involved several long drives. Her house was out in Gresham, and even from our old house on 102nd in Portland, it was a 35 minute drive each way. It took us 4 days (a few hours every day after work) to get the house completely setup for the sale. The biggest task was discovering and sorting what was there. We setup the master bedroom as a huge clothing boutique. Racks and racks of clothing and a large assortment of designer and designer knock off bags.

The sale ran for two days, Saturday and Sunday from 8:00am to 4:00pm both days. The first day we were awash in nonstop people. The second day it was fairly slow but a few big repeat customers came back to help clear us out. In the end, we sold most of the items and got a nice little commission check.

In the run up to the sale, we had an adoption update. We said no to two boys, as after reading their expanded profile, we just didn’t feel we were a good match for their needs. This was much more emotional than we thought it would be. Our “No, thank you” came at very early stage. They were not close to even offering a placement. But that didn’t stop it from feeling like we were saying no to our only chance at the adoption process. It isn’t of course, but it was an unexpected stressor, in a sea of home moving stress.

Our moving day was planned for Black Friday, November 27th, just five days after the estate sale. So we spent most of Thanksgiving Day taking apart furniture, and loading boxes in to the garage. Anthony cooked up a nice mini thanksgiving dinner. Turkey (loaf), mashed potatoes, candied yams, fresh rolls, homemade stuffing, and two wonderful pumpkin pies.

Moving day started at 7:00am with the drive to the U-Haul for truck pickup. We got the 17 footer. Imagine Anthony driving a massive truck…. Yeah it was pretty funny. In the end it only took us 3 loads to get everything moved.

We moved from Portland to Happy Valley. We are still on the MAX line, green now rather than blue. The elementary school in our area just got a great report card so our future kido’s school is an upgrade from the old one, which did not score so well.

Our new house is larger, but smaller. The living room, dining room and kitchen are all in one huge open space on the main level along with a half bath. Gas stove, Gas heat and Gas hot water! Upstairs, we have 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a nice sized laundry/cat room).

Our new master bedroom is huge, about 3 times bigger then what we had. It has its own master bath and huge walk in closet. We immediately splurged on a fancy new rain shower head for our shower. This was worth every penny. We keep taking longer and longer showers. It was a real god sent for our aching muscles! (Getting out of the shower has become an issue.)

The big change is this is a townhouse. No yard work to worry about, but no raspberries growing the backyard. All of our old neighbors are upset to see us leave, while our new neighbors seem upset to see us take up a parking space. In fact the day before we moved Joshua had to ring the door bell of almost all the other homes to get someone’s car out of our driveway so we could get to our garage.

The move is over and we are 100% in our new place now. Handed over the keys last night and our old landlord was shocked how clean the house was (She gave us 100% of our deposit back!).

So for now we are living a sea of boxes, but hopefully in the next week or so everything will find a new place in time for our Christmas party.

Line Cutters, Rude People, Morally Bankrupted Californians and Generally Unpleasant People

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Other Peoples Vacation Manners: A complete lack of them.

As mentioned in a prior post, it just is not possible to accurately describe our October vacation without talking about the poor behavior we witnessed in our fellow Norwegian Star passengers and Disney park attendees. But before we do, we really have to say that we really really did have a good great time on our trip and don’t in anyway blame NCL or Disneyland for the nasty things we witnessed. That said…. bring on the dancing idiots!

Our cruise ship had over a thousand employees aboard. Most, getting paid in bird seed… well certainly less then the federal minimum wage. Most of them working very hard to ensure the passengers have a great trip. For example, it was not uncommon for our room to be made up twice in one day, once in the morning then again after our nap while we were at dinner. There were also times on board were the wait staff out numbered the diners. And even when the numbers were more balanced, most times we felt like kings being waited on. A ship employee’s normal shift is about 10 hours a day for 10 days straight. These guys and gals work hard for the money.

After experiencing how well we were taken care of and seeing the way some of the passengers treated the staff was just ghastly! We didn’t know if it was because most of the staff were foreigners (mostly Asian) and our fellow cruisers were prejudiced or  if our fellow passengers had just checked their brains and manners at the dock and sailed on without them. It was seldom we would have a meal were we would not see some sort of bad behavior by a passenger or walk down a hallway and see some customer talking/yelling at a cabin steward in a unnecessary tone.

We started to notice that we were consciously making it a point to thank each server at every meal (as you are not allowed to tip, unless you cocktail or wine) and tried to beat the cabin stewards to the punch by saying good morning or good evening. Many times the staff seemed shocked and extremely grateful, which of course bothered us even more. Good manner are free and the staff on board (with a few exceptions) were outstanding!

We saw people complaining about the most petty things. Yelling at the top of their lungs to get the staff to correct something that a calm request would have accomplished quicker. And then there were the cutters and shovers.

Hummm how do we  properly describe these people…… Have you ever been driving down the road, traveling at or above the speed limit and some jerk dangerously passes you and cuts you off so he can get to the stop sign 1.4 seconds before you do. Only to find out later as you pull into your destination that you arrived before them? This was the standard type of behavior we witnessed from our fellow cruise members. We had people dive and push past us to steal tables from us (when there were plenty of tables for all), shove us off the deck rails (so they can have the spot we were standing in). We saw people diving in front of little children, handicapped and elderly people to get thru doorways or to the buffet line 1.4 seconds faster.

After a week of witnessing some pretty  awful behavior. So by the end of the cruise we got so tired of our fellow passengers we hung out mostly in our stateroom and were much happier for it!

We are both fairly passive aggressive people and have both been raised with a good set of manners and high level of expected public behavior. (To use kido language, we have learned to use our words.) So for the whole cruise it was rare for us to say a rude word when we were cut off or shoved or got short changed by the staff having to pander to the squeaky wheels first then assist the polite customers second. For the most part, we were on vacation and we turned the other cheek.

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But we hit our limit in Disneyland. With everyone around us acting like jerks, we were starting to get very tired of getting the short end of the stick: Waiting in line, only for some jerk in front of us to let 7 or 8 of his friends to cut directly ahead of us and then get pissy with us for looking shocked and upset by their behavior. Being sat with a reservation at a smelly horrible table so the no reservation mega-complainer can have the better seat and shut up. Watching parents scream at their kids (who they had filled up with tons of sugar and let them skip their n.a.p.) to “Stop crying, have fun or else!.

Both of us have a very high breaking point when in public, it takes a lot of direct abuse or mistreatment for us to snap. But on our second day in Disneyland, we had about all we were going to take. Our first night we watched the Halloween fireworks display from the backside of the castle. It was a mad house for a frontside view, wall to wall people standing room only from the front of the castle all the way to the Train archway on main street USA! So the second night we hit downtown Disney and walked in to Main street USA about 10 mins before the fireworks, walked up as far as we could and planned to watch from there. This worked out great, the crowd was much lighter and there was lots of room for everyone.

Midway thru the fireworks a lady walks up with a sugar intoxicated sleep deprived child on her shoulders and stops 4.25 inches in front of  Joshua, resting her oversized backpack stuffed to the breaking point with cheap direct from china disney souvenirs onto Joshua’s chest. Mind you there was a good 10 foot empty radius round Joshua that she could have stood with a great view that would not have blocked anyone. But she choose poorly! Out of no where this loud stern voice rang out clearly and distinctly over the exploding fireworks “EXCUSE ME…YOUR BLOCKING OUR VIEW, MOVE!” Joshua had reached his breaking point, so much so you might have heard it up here in Portland.

But the hardest thing we had to deal with during our vacation was all the ungrateful and blind parents, both on the cruise ship and in the parks. Even with school in session there were a lot of kids around. Sometimes it was very hard for us to witness how clueless some of the parents were to the wonderful gift they have been given. To watch them squander the chance to be apart of their child’s lives, to be good role models, to be a family. At times it made us very angry, other times it would make us a little sad.

These negative aspects of our trip have really underscored for us the importance of teaching our kido manners and proper public behavior and reminded us how much we are committed to adopting.

Halloween Weekend

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We had a pretty busy Halloween weekend. With about a month to go before our move date we drove around Saturday morning and checked out two condos. All three of us like both of them, but one in Clackamas seemed to be the favorite so far.

Saturday night Anthony and Joshua drove over to Sara and Shawn’s house and then from drove over to Sara’s old neighborhood and took Shawn trick or treating. Shawn was dressed up like Superman. Which seems to be an important hero for him. He showed us his outfit before our trip and he explained to us that Superman was adopted, just like he is.

It was a cold night, but dry. We were out canvassing the houses for about 2 hours. A lot of the people we visited mentioned that they were not getting many trick or treater’s. So Shawn make out like a bandit getting handfuls at many of the houses. Afterwards we drove back to Sara and Shawn’s house and sorted out the candy, giving Shawn a chance to count every piece and a chance for the adults making sure it was all safe.

The next day we had a big house cleaning. Between our vacation and Sam’s vacation the house has not had a good cleaning for about a month. With two cats in the house that means several tons of fur under the tables, chairs, sofa and hiding in corners.

To start the day right Anthony made fresh biscuits and cream of wheat! Shawn came over for his normal Sunday visit about at about 9:30. By then Sam had all the dinning room tables moved and was in full cleaning mode. Anthony cleaned the kitchen while Joshua took care of the bathroom.

Sam and Shawn hung out in the back room for a bit. Shawn has taken a real shine to Sam. They spend an hour looking at Star Wars facts and stories on Sam’s laptop. Sam is going to be a great uncle for our Kido.

Anthony made pumpkin chocolate chip cookies with a little help from Shawn, and then we all had a nice lunch of fresh salmon with rice. After lunch we had quiet time, which Shawn is getting better and better at. We told him it was quiet time and he sat in the kids room quietly reading books. He came out an hour later and asked if quiet time was over. He will not take naps, but quiet time seems to be a success!

All four of us played UNO after quiet time. Shawn didn’t seem to get the point of the game, he tried to collect as many cards as possible, and did so with pizzazz!

We drove Shawn home and helped his mom build a corner table kit that she purchased for their new kitchen which looks great! We then headed home starving.

We had never been to the cheesecake factory before, and since it was on the way home we stopped by for dinner. They have a HUGE menu, we were a bit worried that trying to do so much would mean so so food. But we got the chicken and biscuits and shepherds pie and both were hot and yummy. So me might have found a new place to have Sunday night dinner.

Disneyland Fall 2009

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DAY ONE

We rented a car from Enterprise, which was nice as they picked us up from the Cruise port. Joshua used his phone to navigate us to our hotel. Which worked out pretty well, but it took us via side streets rather then on the freeways. So it took us about 40 minutes to get to our hotel.

We booked the Fairfield hotel in Anaheim. It was the same hotel we used on our prior visit. It was about 10:30am when we got to the front desk. We had locked all our bags in the trunk of the car, we figured we would have to come back later in the day since we where checking in so early. But we were in luck, they had our room ready! Check in was even a breeze. Much better then last time. Total time from hitting the front counter to walking into our room only took about 10 minutes.

After a week in our ship’s stateroom, our room felt like a mansion. Standard king sized bed, standard size tub with standard sized toilet and standard sized sink. All felt like luxuries! We tossed our bags down grabbed our park tickets and headed out the door. By 11:00am we where on Disney property. One of the reasons we like the Fairfield is it’s great location. From the hotel’s front door  to Park turnstiles it’s actually closer then the Disneyland hotel and about $300 a night cheaper.

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The first this we noticed was the whole park is decked out for Halloween. The big flower patch Mickey head has been halloweened and pumpkin jack-o-lantern version of Mickey, Donald and Goofy are displayed above the turnstiles.

We headed down Mainstreet USA and walked into tomorrowland making a beeline to Space Mountain, now called Ghost Galaxy. Wait time was 90 mins! So we grabbed fastpasses and then headed up towards Strollerland/Fantasyland and had lunch.

After lunch we boarded the Mark Twain for a boat ride around the lagoon and then did the haunted mansion holiday edition. We then left the park and headed over to California Adventure.

The Blue sky cellar was open and we got to see a little of what is coming to CA in the next few years. CA is still under major renovations. The lagoon area is still drained, but now they have several million dollars worth of pipes and water canons installed on the lake bottom. The water show called “The Wonderful World of Color” should rival Fantasmic.

Next we headed to muppet studios and watched Muppets 3-D (still a great show) and then did the Monsters Inc. ride. We checked out the Italian restaurant in the park, but the food did not look worth it so we headed over to Downtown Disney for our traditional first night dinner at Tortilla Joes. Dinner was ok, nothing great and not as good as we remembered from before. Looks liked they have a new management team with a new menu. Which was seemed to be more tame for the white man’s palate. Salsa was watered down ketchup. But the meal was not bad, just a bit boring.

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After dinner we took the Mono-rail back into the park. The Disney Monorail is tiny compared to the DisneyWorld ones. But these seem to be more a ride then a legitimate transportation option. Once back in the park it was time for Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy. Which ROCKED! We grabbed a second fast pass for it, a very nice temporary overlay to a classic ride.

Fireworks that night where a bit of let down. First, Mainstreet USA was standing room only from the front of the castle all the way to the railroad archway. People where packed in like sardines. So we watched the show from the backside at it’s a small world. They use lights and video on the white panels of Small world and it’s kinda a secret show. Even with that special show, the show turned out to be a watered down and poorly copied version of of Mickey’s not so scary Halloween party in Disney world, which we love! We were really looking forward to seeing what the west coast mouse had come up with, and the result was just a sad imitation. They used the same songs and same orchestration of the music, so both sang along perfectly with the show and more then one towny looking at us wondering how we were doing it.

After the fireworks the park was open until midnight so we headed over to see the second showing of Fantasmic. Which was pretty good. We then did  Strollerland and then headed to bed. After a week of being pampered and napping all day, a full day at the parks nearly killed us!

DAY TWO

Big shock…. Anthony woke early. Dragging Joshua out of bed. The first thing we needed to do was find coffee and breakfast. Which proved to be a task. The prices at the little coffee shop and diner in Dowtown Disney has got thur the roof, $17.50 for pancakes. We nearly passed out when we saw how much they have jacked up the prices.

So with our normal breakfast spot now off limits we entered into the park with a empty belly and no ADR for breakfast. Plaza cafe was packed and we didn’t feel the need for a character breakfast, well not until we have a kido. So we had breakfast burritos at the tomorrowland fast food station. Which were fresh and not bad.

picture_1.pngWe grabbed another Space Mountain fasspass for later in the day and  headed off to do the park. We had a great day in the park. But  rather lousy time at dinner. We have officially given up on the Blue Bayou. We got poor service, cool food and horrible seating. Just not worth all the money they charge, this was our 2nd and last visit!

We watched the Fireworks from Main Street USA and got our addict’s fix of Disney Pins. We found all four of the haunted mansion stretch portraits done with disney characters in pin form. Very very cool. And only got about 3 stitch pins, which is a new record for Joshua!

The commute home the next day was pretty un-event full. Our non-stop flight was a bit late getting in to pick us up in longbeach. But other then that it was a short 2 hour flight. Sam was nice enough to pick us up.

Next Disney trip is going to be Disney World. We miss our big castle, the better customer service and much better food. Not to mention our EPCOT!

The Last 2.50 Days On Board

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A few people have emailed us and wanted to know how much this cruise cost. We paid $549.00 each plus airfare (which was cheap as well, LGB is the best LA airport!). Which worked out $69.00 a day per person. The price covers room & board and all onboard activities. It has been to date the cheapest vacation we have ever taken together. It’s pretty easy to see why people like cruising so much.

Our last few days on board the Norwegian Star were spent relaxing. We got into the habit of heading down to the Blue Lagoon restaurant and ordering dinner and lunch and then hiding in our cabin.

Having the balcony was a HUGE plus for us. It became Joshua’s default position with a book in hand. CIMG0068While Anthony started to work his way though the stack of DVD’s he packed. Most of the time we had the sliding glass door open, day and night. If we ever do another cruise a balcony will not be optional but a requirement.

The last two days were really non-eventful for us. We did a little onboard shopping for trinkets and gifts. We have continued our tradition and got a magnet and coffee mug from each vacation destination we traveled too. The on board market covered that little need nicely.

Anthony attended the future cruise planning seminar, which turned out to be a plug for the new NCL Epic cruise ship. Again nothing helpful other then “Go to our website for more information…”. Onboard internet was free only if you traveled to the NCL homepage. Anything else was a scary 75¢ a min! We checked out the NCL homepage and the speed was terrible for the rate they were charging, their own homepage took over a min to load. We kept looking for the commodore 64 300 baud modem that just had to be attached to the ship board computer.

Joshua became a fan of the cigar lounge and visited it nightly for a cough/cigar and scotch. He even bought a Cuban cigar while we were in Mexico and tried it while on board. Anthony made it every clear that this was a vacation only event and this dirty habit would not come home with us. Both of us are ex-smokers and know how easy it is to start back up.

We attended the on board magic show, which was really funny… but not like you would think. We sat in the side balcony and were able to see how the magician did most every trick. It was pretty funny as we debunked each trick to each other.

We did the Asian restaurant and Anthony had his first taste of Sashimi. Joshua who is a huge fan of Sushi was not impressed.CIMG0074

Thursday night was the Chocolate Buffet. We both got a full plate of chocolate goodies and headed off to bed as the buffet was at 10:30 pm (that’s about hour past Anthony’s bed time).

Disembarkation day was the most “exciting” part of our last 2 days. We woke early again as we wanted to get off the boat during the first wave of debarkation. The process turned out to be a mad house. Half the ship seemed to have the same idea. We are going to a separate blog on the horrific personal behaviors we saw on this trip, debarkation day was the highlight of the selfish nasty behavior we saw in our fellow passengers.

Joshua broke the handle on his suitcase as we tried to take our luggage down the stairs rather then the elevators, which were packed with rude unbudging passengers. It took us about 30 mins to get off the ship, from cabin to customs, which was about 15 mins longer then it needed to be. All because of our childish fellow passengers

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Customs was by the way a huge joke. Don’t understand why I have to take my shoes off and x-rayed and scanned if I get on a plane, but take a cruise from a foreign port and they just wave you through. They didn’t even look at our passports!

We had kept the tube that Joshua’s Cuban cigar came in for a kept sake and were worried we might get questioned or have it taken away. They did not even look in our bags. So much for Homeland Security. We could have brought back a case or two of Cuban cigars, or even a global thermonuclear device.

We got picked up by Enterprise car rentals, as we had booked a car for our 2 days in LA. The rental shop was close by and we were driving off to Harbor Avenue in Anaheim within 30 mins. Yes, that makes 2 trips to Disneyland in one year.

OK WE KNOW WE HAVE A PROBLEM…. admitting it is the first step to recovery.

Puerto Vallarta – Now on sale

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1:30 am ship’s time, we have reached the edge of Hurricane Rick. Huge swells all night had the ship is rocking and rolling like an amusement park ride. According to the ships travel information channel, the ocean water is 86 degrees, the TV did not list the wind speed or swells so we knew it was bad. We should be safely in our sheltered port in 6 hours, but it looks like it’s going to be a bumpy ride. The view of the storm from our balcony is AWESOME, you can see and feel the power of the ocean and the storm, it was a bit scary. We found out later before we arrived back in LA that this night the ship was hit with 70 mph winds and 18-20 foot swells.

After the Joshua had woken up, a 30 min process, we headed to breakfast then de-boarded the ship, into the pouring rain and wet but beautiful Puerto Vallarta Mexico . Luckily we walked right on to our waiting tour bus. This was mixed blessing. It was nice to be out of the rain but this tour was so not our cup of tea.

The tour guide spoke just enough English to lead the tour, but no more. The speakers on the bus were set at 11, normal buses volumes only go up to 10, but this bus goes to 11. So we were deaf about 10 mins into the tour. Once off the bus the tour guide did not have any megaphone so we missed about 2/3rds  of what he said.CIMG0036

First stop was the old town sea wall and then up to the Parish church. Dedicated to the Queen of the Americas. Built by a gentleman named Ramirez.  If you’re a ICS member this should ring some bells and raise an eyebrow or two. The church’s name is the Church od the Lady of Guadalupe..

The parish was lovely, but they only gave us 15 minutes to visit it. They then took us to a jewelry store and gave us 45 minutes to shop. Both of us hated this and wanted to go back to the parish. So we walked around and explored some of the “non-kickback” shops and we found and wonderful working mans restaurant, it smelled amazing!

CIMG0107Back on the bus and off into the jungle to see were “Night of Iguana” was filmed. The movie that made the town what it is today…. apparently. Our next stop was for a free drink before we headed back to the ship. The free drink was offered in a…. Jewelry shop and another 45mins wasted.  We again ditched the group and headed to a drug store and got some soda’s and hit the non-kickback stores for some little items. We did buy a hat for Shawn in the kick back store, and kinda regretted, we paid to much, but he will love it…. We hope.

We both were very unhappy at the commercialism and the spending push NCL sold us. Our tour of the city highlights was more a tour of kick back shops and stores then a tour of the city itself. We would not take the same tour again. If we travel to Purto Vallarta again we will do it alone, rather then with a tour group.

Once we got back to the ship we stood in the rain and got soaked as we re-boarded the ship. We changed clothes and had a sit down lunch on board. After lunch the weather was looking better outside so we decided to go for a walk around the port area. Most of the stores were nothing but tourist  crap-o-la, but just as we had decided to head back we found this little store run by an elderly gentleman and his wife. The items inside were nicer art pieces. And we found a nice vase as a gift for ourselves for LESS then we spend on Shawn’s cheap Mexican hat. It was a real nice find.

We re-boarded the ship changed clothes again, and headed up to deck 13 for the sunset. The weather finally was working in our favor. It was clear and amazing. Joshua got some wonderful shots. Check out all the photos HERE. The mountains and port looked wonderful and we had the deck almost to ourselves.

So just like the day, dinner was a real let down as well. We ate at Aqua, and both ordered the lamb. Both of us were served very very very pink, and Joshua likes his meat pink…. that is medium rare, but this was raw. Worst of all it was served on a bed of cold semi cooked lentils (Joshua hates cold lentils with a passion). It was so bad we walked out and never returned to Aqua for the rest of the cruise.

So we ended the day in our room, Anthony watched a Dr. Who episode on the laptop and Joshua read on the balcony. We have two more ship days before we return to LA, and we are hoping for smooth waters and a speedy trip. We are both looking forward to visiting our favorite Disneyland hotel and of course Disneyland itself.

LAND HO!

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After a night of huge swells and a constant rocking of the ship, we woke to the lights of Mazatlan in the distance. By 7am we were at breakfast and the ship was slowing entering the port.

We dashed back to the room and packed our travel bag.  We booked the old Mazatlan walking tour the day before. So we put on our hiking shoes and headed down to deck 4.

CIMG0691We were met by our tour guide, Shelia. She was is an American who moved to Mazatlan back in 1981. We boarded a little shuttle that took us to the main port building. Mazatlan does not have a cruise port, the dock area is a commercial dock so we had to be escorted by shuttle to a safe area.  Once in the port building Shelia got two cab vans that took the group down to the sea wall.

The weather was warm, but overcast. It sprinkled on us for most of the day. But it was nothing for two Oregonians.  We walked along the sea wall. We got to see a cliff diver, who swam to shore and asked for money. Then he started swearing at the crowds who did not tip him. There was another gentleman who was collecting tips for the diver, and we are not sure that they were together. From the diver’s reaction and the hasty retreat of the other guy…. We are guessing not.

We then walked down to the old town area and stopped in a little shop. We got a free drink (soda pop) and had our first restroom break. We didn’t buy anything.

The tour continued thru the old town area. Shelia explained the history of the mansions that make up the old town CIMG0290area. Most are greatly in disrepair. But a few looked kinda cool, either of us are ready to move there.

We stopped by the oldest working bakery in Mazatlan. Joshua bought some gingerbread cookies.

We then stopped by a museum, overlooking a nice little square. We then headed over to the opera house and then walked over to the cathedral. From there we visted the city market and the senior frog store where we picked up some cool board shorts and a t-shirt for Anthony’s nephew.

After shopping the tour ended and we headed back to the boat with Mike and Mike, a couple from Canada that we met on the tour. We did a little more shopping at the port shops and then reboarded the board.

We had dinner at the buffet market and then it was NAP time!

After our nap Anthony headed down to the spa, on our first day aboard the ship Anthony won a free foot and ankle massage. IT WAS HEAVENLY!

We headed down to dinner at about 7:00pm, which was ok.  We headed back to the room and watched DVD’s that we brought and then headed to bed early.

Oh we got a letter on our door, since they canceled our day in Cabo San Lucas they credited our account $9.01 per guest…  not quite $20.00 bucks wooopie!

Our photos from the day can be found HERE, should be good as we had dueling cameras.