Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Latest Delays

In an hour I will be going to get part two of my psych evaluation to be sure I am not too crazy to adopt.  We need to send some additional paperwork to the people doing the home study and then the paperwork should be done.  

In another month, the paperwork should be on its way to Haiti.  Visiting Xavier seems like it happened a year ago.  I don't know when we will be back in Haiti, but it can't be too soon for me.  Spiritually, this whole process is very good for me.  I can't do much but wait.  In most of my life, I crowd out the spiritual by talking and doing.  In this process, I can do neither.

So will take this as a blessing--like the blessing of suffering, I will try to remain grateful, and hope it ends.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

SGT Dad and Weight Gain

Six weeks ago I decided my younger son was getting wider faster than he was getting taller and this situation needed to change.  My wife suggested we work both sides of the weight gain equation.

Food minus Energy Burned equals weight gain or loss.

Less food means less energy burn.  But 12-year-old boys are not the best candidates for limiting food intake.  So I decided to work on the 2nd varaible.  Five nights a week, the boys and I go the the track and run two or more miles.

Is this enough?

I will know in a month or two.  Right now younger son seems a little less of himself than he was at New Year's Day.  My older son runs also. He works on speed and usually finishes a half-mile ahead of us.

We'll see how it works.  But I dislike the idea of a teenage (almost) boy on a diet and wnat to have him eat like a teenage boy and burn the calories.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

More on Paperwork for Adoption

Guest post from my wife, Annalisa

Why does it take so long to get our adoption paperwork done?  I like to think I’m a super-organized person, so it’s agonizing to me that it takes this long.  [How long so far?  I figure that since about Christmas time, I’ve spent about a half-hour a day, on average, pulling stuff together, and I’m still going strong.]

Here’s one example of why things take so long.

Item number 12 (of 14) on our list of needed-paper work is
            “12. police records for the county you reside in”.

Sounds fairly simple, right?  For us, this has meant the following steps.

1.  Get an FBI background check.  We registered on-line at Cogent (, paid our fee, and printed out our ID numbers.  Then we went to our local Fed Ex store and got the actual fingerprints.  We’ve done this several times now, so we’re getting to be “pro”s, but we’ve always found this visit takes at least an hour out of our day – fingerprinting never seems to work right the first time. 

2.  Get a Pennsylvania Child Abuse Clearance.  This involves filling out a form that includes all our former addresses since 1979, plus the names and ages of all the people who have lived with us since then.  Again, because we’ve done this so many times I now have a spreadsheet. Gathering all those addresses and names of people is a pretty intensive endeavor, really.  To pay for this, we have to have a money order (no checks allowed), so that involves a trip to the bank.

3.  Get a Pennsylvania state criminal background check.  Another form, another money order. 

Steps 1-3  are required for the home study process, so we got them done fairly early – my records say we had all the money orders taken care of by December 30.  Are these three things enough for Haiti?  Are any of these pieces of paper, “police records for the county you reside in?”

We asked our Haiti adoption folks.  No, they said; we need a letter from our County Sheriff.  (I’ve now learned, finally, how to spell “sheriff”: one r, two f’s.)  I spent about two weeks calling our sheriff and leaving messages, asking for a criminal background check for both me and my husband.  No call backs.

After two weeks, Neil took over and called.  He finally got through to a real person, who told him that the county doesn’t do background checks; only the state does.

Back to our adoption folks: can we get our state to do the background check on us?  This time, the answer is “yes, but only if it’s a certified background check”.  We figured, great! We already did this! (See step 3 above).  We went back to the folks doing our home study – can they send us the state background check from their files, and is it certified?

Alas, the version they have is NOT certified; we have to do this over again.  So we hunted around on the web, found a bunch of forms, and finally found a web-based version at site looks like you need to be registered with the state agencies, but if you read it carefully, you’ll see you only need to have a credit card.  This is good, because it means we didn’t have to go to the bank for a money order).  So we ordered our certified Pennsylvania Criminal Background checks, and about a week later they showed up.  Yay!

But just as I was celebrating, thinking we were done . . . we had our home study visit.  And our social worker tells us that even though Haiti doesn’t care about this, for our home study we’ll need background checks on the 19-year old gal who moved in with us over the summer. So we still have to repeat steps 1-3 above for Kiersten. 

Total time working on this to date:  I’ll estimate about 6 hours, so far, with another 2 hours ahead of us.

Total money spent on background checks:  $130 so far, with the future needing probably $55 more for Kiersten’s background checks and $90 more for the apostilles. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

On Sanity and Adopting

On Friday I am taking at test to see if I am sane enough to adopt.  My roommate from cold war Germany left the military to become a Monk in Germany.  Cliff Almes, now Bruder Timotheus, is still in Germany.  Here is his view of the test:


just finished catching up on your blogs. The idea of you having to pass psychiatric testing is intersting. So much of what you write openly about says to so many that you are absolutely nuts. In your blogs you are absolutely transparent. If the shrink gives you an ok then it says more about her than you. For the boy's sakes I hope she does.   

God bless,   

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Meeting Another Boy from Pennsylvania Soon

In the coming weeks my wife and I will be meeting a 14-year-old boy named Trevon who is currently living in a group home and looking for a family.  When we meet Trevon we are planning to tell him abut our family as it is and to ask if our family is what he is really looking for.  If he wants to go to college or to do the best he can in school we are the place he wants to be.  If he is a serious athlete, he will find a lot of support to be the best he can be in whatever sport he wants to pursue.

If he wants he wants his own choice of food and electronic entertainment, then he should look for another family.  Kids who need TVs, iPods, and McDonalds will hate living with us and should hold out for something more to their liking.  Not to mention if we spend the academic year 2015-16 in Rwanda, all edible and electronic comforts will be history for a year.

One of my roommates at Fort Sill when we were training for Iraq said that depriving my kids of video games and TV the way we did was going to make them weird.  For him it was like child abuse.  He did not even know my wife served vegetables every day and never took the kids to McDonalds.

Since there were no secrets in a 4-man room, I was painfully aware that his boys whined on Skype for new video games.  At the time, two of my daughters were students at Brun Mawr and Juniata College.  The third was just about to graduate third in her high school class and made the state meet in cross country.

We are sticking with vegetables and video deprivation for the boys also.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

More Complications

In the pile of papers my wife is compiling to move the adoption forward is a police background check by the local sheriff's office.  I called and they don't do background checks.  My wife thinks she has found the proper agency to do it, but we're not sure.  I know it is important to check the background of people who are adopting.  In addition to the background check we are working on now, we have been checked by the PA State Police and the FBI.

Xavier is healthy enough to return to school in Haiti.  We hope to get an update next week about his health in general when he is examined by an American doctor visiting on a missions trip.  A woman from our church is also traveling to Haiti and will be able to take things for Xavier with her.

More soon.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

More News from Haiti

This morning we got an email from Haiti saying Xavier was well enough to return to the orphanage.
Heather at said they will have a US doctor at their facility in two weeks and he will be examining Xavier to make sure he is recovering well.

We are still a few weeks away from completing the application.  Our home study is scheduled for February 14 and the next part of my wife's psych evaluation will not be complete until the end of the month.

Meanwhile millions of microbes could be swimming in every cup of water Xavier will drink.  And once we get Xavier safely to America, his life expectancy will go up by decades, but what about the other kids in his orphanage and other orphanages?  What about the kids who live with their families and drink the same wretched water?

Ignorance is underrated.

Before I went to Haiti, all that suffering was an abstraction.  Pictures of suffering don't feel and smell like suffering.

Even when we finally get Xavier here, I will know just how many people in Haiti are one good water treatment plant away from living 20 years longer with much less suffering.