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Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Age Related
We now return this blog to regularly scheduled adoption related stuff. When we last left on the "Adoption Retrospective" walk down memory lane we discussed social workers. Or moreover, the fact that I am dumb and didn't research the social worker (at all) and got screwed in the process.

I want to switch gears for a moment and backtrack yet again. I posted about evaluating a referral, but I didn't talk about making the choice on age and such. I kinda glazed over that subject. I want to return to it now.

When we made the decision to adopt from Russia part of it was because at the time one could receive a referral as young as 6 months. Yes, yes... I've talked about this before. The hurt of not being able to get pregnant was still fresh and I truly wanted an infant. I believed that I could have a child home before their 1st birthday. Hey... I was on track to do so. Our paperwork stated "up to 18 months as young as possible." I didn't want to go much over 18 months. I was scared. When a child is mobile, can talk and has had 2 years of institutionalized life things get more complicated. I didn't think I was prepared for that. Little A was 10 months at time of referral. If all would have gone as planned he would have been home at 13 months. I was good with this.

After losing Little A we had to redo all of our paperwork. This included a homestudy update. We spoke with the tool and he didn't so much talk us into upping our age range as we informed him this is what we wanted to do. 9 months of waiting gives you a whole new perspective on parenting. We felt confident that we could handle a child about to enter the terrible twos. Of course secretly we still wanted a young child.

We got Pickle's referral and he was 17 months. To say the least we were a little stunned. Within our age range, but older than we anticipated. By the time he came home he was 23 months. Looking back, I wouldn't have it any other way. I love my toddler. I see brand new babies and sure, they're cute, but my toddler has this little personality. He talks to me, he plays, he has this amazing sense of childish wonder. Yes, a younger child would eventually get to this point.

I hear so many stories of people choosing domestic over international because they want a tiny infant. Many of those are people who have gone through years of infertility treatments. I am not saying it is wrong to want a tiny infant. They are cute in their own right. But I encourage some to think about children closer to toddler age.

There are certain first that you will miss out on. First step and all, but there are so many that you will get to experience. First time he tastes ice cream, first dinner as a family, first trip to the zoo, first trip to the beach, first time he calls you mama, first time he falls and comes to you for comfort. Every first is just as amazing as that first step.
Friday, February 23, 2007
I am Jack's raging bile duct
See how I'm still posting here? Why is that Elle? I'll tell you why. Because Monday some jagoff hacked my website. Then I contacted the hosting company and they gave me some lame ass excuse 12 hours later that it was somehow my fault. So I tried to switch hosting companies. Then the new company was slow in responding to my tech questions too. So I got pissed at them and tried to switch back to the first host company and that didn't work. So I got even more pissed and tried to go back to the second company while investigating a 3rd company. The second company was moderately helpful so I gave them the benefit of the doubt. Then they turned me into this raving lunatic who yells at her husband and child for no apparent reason. You know why? Because I submitted an email question to them and their website clearly says that they have a 30 minute email response guarantee. Now this company must be using a geologic clock or something because their 30 minutes turned into 12 hours. The answer I got didn't even help me. So I submit another email. 8 hours later no response. I try another. 3 hours later no response. Another. 1 hour later no response. I try live chat for the bazillionth time. Guy-whose-first-language-is-not-English tells me he will resubmit my help ticket. Not good enough. He tries to "help" me. I then sit on hold for 40 minutes with no response. 6 hours later I get an email (which is almost 24 hours from the time I submitted the response) that helps me with my email. Not what I wanted.

So a week after the jagoff hacker stole my site I still don't have a site. I have an old hosting company that pissed me off, a new hosting company that pissed me off more, email that finally works and a significantly less amount of hair than I started the week with.

These people obviously don't realize that my website is my way of getting stuff out. I have all of these pent up posts in my head and sure I could write them down in some other program and save them, but where's the fun in that? Don't these people realize that I need validation from the outside world to tell me it is ok to let my child roll around in a pile of Cheerios on the floor and then let him eat them even though I haven't vacuumed this week? Don't they know I have hair issues to be solved and new "mommy" magazines to make fun of. The humanity of it all!

Sure I could spend my time working on graphics for someone's design, but all I can think about is my site and that it is this useless void out there in internetland. I really need to get a life. Someone come and feed me to the wolves just to put me out of my misery.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
I miss my blog
I didn't know how much I would miss my own blog until it was gone. I can't even go and look at my pretty design. It is just gone. All I have is this file sitting on my desktop. It makes me sad. Not to mention I am in serious need of a mental health day. Stress from work, mommyhood and this stupid web stuff is catching up to me and I am either getting sick or working on a world class allergy attack. Either one will leave me mostly incapacitated for the better part of a day or more. I don't have time to be incapacitated. What's worse is the sun is shining. I have half a mind to say forget work, I'm going outside. If people don't get stuff turned into me I am going to do just that. But of course going outside means yard clean-up and my yard wast bin is full. See this vicious cycle I live in? It is maddening I tell you.

I am so tired, but I'll still give you a boy story.

Monday I had to work. So the trusty husband stayed home to watch the child. One would assume that this means actually watching the child. The husband comes to me and says, "I'm going to take a bath." and yes... by publicly saying my husband takes baths is totally to out him on it because frankly since becoming a mom I have not had the luxury of soaking in the tub undisturbed, or soaking in the tub disturbed for that matter. Anyway... I remind him that taking a bath is not watching the child. He informs me that he is going to turn on the electronic babysitter. Great. Now being the "smart" husband he puts it on repeat play. But being the smarter child he knows when the 20 minute program is up. As I sit in my office trying to get some work done I hear bare feet on wood floors. Now I know the husband did not dress the child and that he was wearing footie jammies. Not any more. Here comes my child, sans pjs exclaiming, "nudie! nudie!" And the husband. Still in the bath.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
I am homeless. Completely and utterly bloggy homeless. Ok, not so much because I can post here, but still. My precious gem of a website is alas stuck in hosting hell.

The Total Choice monkeys pissed me off so bad I made the husband find me a new hosting company and make the switch. Of course he is just the money guy and the rest is up to me. Fine. I've set up websites before. This shouldn't be a problem. Riiiiight. The stipulation on finding a new host is they couldn't use cPanel as their navigation tool. For those of you that don't know anything about websites this will mean nothing. The reason I didn't want cPanel was that is how the hacker gained access, or so I am assuming. So he finds me a new host, no cPanel, and I start to make the switch. This means switching the Wordpress files, reestablishing my email account, configuring Outlook to read the email and such. All a bunch of busy work. None of which is working.

So don't panic. Life of Elle is not dead and gone for the minute. I have a handy backup sitting on my desktop that should restore the archives and your wonderful comments. If not, I might die a little.

Until I can get everything resolved this little vacation bungalow will have to do the trick. Keep emailing for the password (elle at lifeofelle dot com). I still commit to that. I will return with regularly scheduled bitching and mommy stories sometime soon.
Monday, February 19, 2007
So you're here trying to see what's up
Did you wake up this morning and check out Life of Elle and say what the hell? Um, yeah... me too. Ok not really me so much. I knew this was coming. I had about a bazillion hits to my site last week that got me thinking that something smelled a bit fishy. So I did what the monkeys at Total Choice said and did a back up. Good thing cause I'll now only lose 1 or 2 posts. I also tried their little trick of changing my password. That was my big clue. Wouldn't work. The good website manager would have contacted support then, but I was busy with that whole being a mom and working thing. So happy Monday to me!

The big problem is that I can't do my usual trick and just slap a redirect on there and send you here. The hacker is evidently getting smarter.* Every time I try it doesn't work. I also don't want to just take the site down. I want Total Choice to see the error of their ways and help me fix it. Isn't that what I PAY for hosting for? Let's see them try to blame this crap on Wordpress this time. So you will have to live with the ugliness for just a little while longer. Trust me this hurts me more than you. In fact it makes me sick to my stomach.

In the mean time I will be working on increasing security, possibly changing hosts and as a temporary measure (once the site is back) is doing the ugly deed of putting up a password. I am so sorry about that. I didn't want to. I wanted to be the usual blog whore that I am and allow everyone to read. I still do.

Here is the deal with the password though... I love all of my readers. Lurkers too. I still want you to read I am just trying to keep out this one sick SOB. So - if you want to continue reading Life of Elle I need to give you the password. I am not going to send out a big email to those I know saying this is the password. Remember the trusty husband deleted my address book. If you want to read you MUST send me an email and tell me you want the password. Once the site is all set up I will leave it unprotected for about a week to give everyone a chance to opt in. Then I will send out the big email letting those who sent me emails know what the secret squirrel code is. Of course there aren't many places I throw that email address out there so here you go: elle at lifeofelle dot com

Now please tell me you love me, delurk if you must. This has been one crappy morning and all this before I finished my first cup of coffee.

*Since you are here evidently the redirect is working. Yeah! This must mean my morning coffee kicked in. This may be a more than one cup day though.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
It was more than that
I do want to clarify a few things. The list in the previous post is not the complete list of what we spent on our adoption. It did not include things like travel, agency fees, gifts we purchased, fees paid to the US government or a whole host of things that added up to over $44K. These were just a few of the things that I didn't anticipate when first figuring our adoption budget. The extra trip to Russia, short notice for travel, an entire second dossier and the need to do umpteen million background checks caused us to go over our initial "guess" by about $10K. As the process went on we kept getting hit by other things that we didn't anticipate paying for. $15 a page for apostilles was one. I will also clarify that from the second we signed our contract with our agency our fees did not change. They didn't even quiver. That part was written in stone. I won't disclose what our agency fees were as they have changed since we first signed 2 years ago.

But as we finished our taxes I did learn a few things on what is and is not covered in the Adoption Tax Credit. Travel expenses are! In fact just about everything you pay for is. Just make sure you keep receipts of all of it. However, donations you make directly to the orphanage are not tax deductible. The charitable donations tax deduction is for monies you give to charitable organizations originating in the US. Orphanages are not run by the US and therefore do not qualify.

We had 1 expense that ate up the whole $10K credit, but I went through all of our expenses just to see. If you are really curious as to how the money was spent I would be glad to share that, but please email me privately.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Adding it all up
For the first time in God only knows how many years we are doing our own tax return. For years CS has been an "independent contractor" for his company and I have owned my own business. Last year both of us spent the entire year gainfully employed for someone instead of ourselves. This means one thing... Federal Taxes Withheld!!! We have not had such a luxury in eons. Of course that meant unusually high tax bills and having to pay someone to make sense of the boxes of documents and receipts we collect over the years. Not anymore my friend, not anymore. This year we are going to give it a go and try to do the damn things ourselves.

But there is a catch. A little thing called the Form 8839 Qualified Adoption Expenses. You know the one. Where you get a handy little credit from the government when you adopt a child. The reason you sit in the Social Security office with a hungry 2 year old. Yeah that.

To get to the point of actually doing our taxes and being able to take said credit we had to go about figuring out our adoption expenses. Parts of the adoption are acceptable expenses while some are not. I'm not an accountant, but I'm going to go with the "official expenses" as opposed to those like say.... the really fancy Matroyska or the hockey jersey I bought on Arbat Street. Things like the agency fees, homestudy fees, child Visa medical exams, child Visa, Russian Registration, USCIS fees those kinds of things.

In the process of adding up those expenses I started coming across a ton of receipts from our local post office and our Secretary of State's office. I began realizing that there is a huge chunk of the adoption budget that people don't really consider. Postage. If you are lucky like us and your agency is out of state you will spend more time in your local post office or FedEx store than you ever care to remember. I am also pretty sure that the people at the Secretary of State's office know me, CS and Kathou all by name.

To give you a clue as to some of the over the top things we paid for here is a list:
Apostilles (in WA only, this doesn't include the FL or WI ones we did) - 52 documents at $15 a page = $780
County Fingerprinting - $20
County Background Checks (2x) - $80
State Background Checks - $30
State Fingerprint Checks - $30
Certified copies of Marriage Certificate - $9
And last but not least
Postage - $171.70 (that is just the receipts I could find. This doesn't include the 50 gagillion DHL envelopes we sent.)
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Strides in Sleep
When we first became the parents to Pickle there were countless posts about his sleep issues. Mainly those revolving around rocking. So many that I am sure you became bored and this is why our readership dropped.

Five months later... Pickle is still a rocker. Shocking? Not to me anymore. I have tried every trick in the book and he still rocks. In fact, I can currently hear him rocking if I turn up the baby monitor. I bet at this point you are asking, "if he is still rocking how does this count as strides in sleep?" I'll tell you.

On any given day I try to be as candid as possible about the issues we face with Pickle. The posts may come here or at Life of Elle. We do have our fair share of post institutionalization issues, but for the most part they are minor. Sleep has been our biggest battle.

We became parents to Pickle on September 5th. Our first attempt at putting him to sleep would prove to be more challenging than originally anticipated. At the time I didn't post much about it. We had limited internet access and I didn't have the energy to go into it. On the second attempt to put Pickle to sleep I tried to lay down with him, but he was so disturbed by all the changes he just couldn't lay there. What caused most of my crying is that he would sit up and make a figure 8 rocking motion with his head until he finally was so exhausted that he lay down and continued to rock. There was no way I could hold this child or comfort him to help him fall asleep. I just laid next to him holding his hand and sobbing. This particular behavior went on for about 3 days. We had enough of that so we both laid with him and one or the other held him down until he fell asleep. He was even more disturbed by this and he started screaming. The next morning Suzanne would tell us she knew when it was bed time in our house. It was that loud. Pickle was frightened by sleep. When it was bed time he would get anxious, breath rapidly and get generally freaked out by the whole thing. By the time we left Russia things were getting better.

When we arrived home Pickle slept with us in the bed the first night. We were all so tired that was just easiest. The second night we tried putting him in his bed, but he ended up with us by about 10. The third night he was in his bed the whole night. To put him to bed without rocking both of us had to stay in the room while one kept their hand on him the whole time. At times we would have to hold him down to keep him from rocking. Some afternoons it took me using both hands to hold him down, him screaming and me falling into a blithering puddle on the floor before he would sleep.

We have had countless arguments over the rocking. We have fought more about this than we have over anything the entire length of our marriage. It is disturbing. It makes you feel inadequate as a parent. To hear your child rock for self comfort, to know they are not calling out to you to soothe them. It breaks my heart a little more each night. The worst part is the not crying. Most say just let him cry it out and he'll be fine. That is all well and good, but Pickle has not once cried in his crib. Never. In 5 months. Never ever cried. Not even when he's been sick. I can't say that enough. It seems that no matter how many times I say it there is still someone who does not believe. He does not cry. Not even a whimper. Just rocks.

So to make the strides in sleeping that we have I thought I'd share a few tips that have gotten us to this point.

We started by holding him down and both of us were in the room. This lasted about 2 weeks. I would sit on the floor and CS would put a hand on him. As soon as he removed his had Pickle would rock. I would sob.

We tried putting him in the bed, staying with him until he was sleepy and then leaving the room. He would still rock. I would continue to cry.

We tried only one of us staying in the room until he was asleep. This takes somewhere around an hour once he's in the bed. Not as much rocking, but he eventually started laughing at me.

It was finally suggested to force him into the rocking chair. Up until that point he would refuse to be held and rocked. I did this and after about 3 days or so he was compliant. I rocked him to sleep, but he woke up upon the transfer and then rocked.

I continued the rock to sleep method and eventually this worked... for about a week.

The pediatrician suggested playing some soft music to distract him from the rocking. We bought an iCrib. I thought my problems were solved by this little gem. It worked for 2 weeks. He adapted and started rocking again.

We resorted to the rocking to sleep, but still this took upwards of an hour. My legs were getting a good workout, but it was frustrating.

Then we rocked him until he was sleepy, put him in the bed and sat or laid on the floor until he fell asleep. We were in his room for up to an hour.

The most recent was rocking him until he was mostly sleepy, putting him into the bed and leaving. We'd go down the hall and say, "no rocking" if we heard him doing so. This was the worst thing we could do. The rocking got worse. He started using it as an attention getting measure. He would grunt loudly, rock violently and make us even more frustrated.

This was the point that CS looks at me and says, "I think we need to take him to a specialist." I agreed, but seeing as it was a Friday night the call would have to wait until Monday. Over that weekend we made a trip to the bookstore. I had been told to go back and read the attachment parenting books and see what they said on this subject. I will finally admit that I don't own a single attachment parenting book. There I said it. You think I'm a bad parent now don't you? Anyway, I sat at the bookstore reading the attachment books and the so called "Bibles of adoption" had nothing on this subject. I mean nothing. They said to rock your child. That is the extent of the info they had on the entire subject of rocking. So we started looking at child sleep books. Here is where we found our answers.

Rocking and head banging is normal in children ages 6 months to 4 years. If this behavior progresses beyond the 4th year seek help. Pickle is 2. It also went on to say that these behaviors are common in children who exhibit neurological dysfunctions such as Cerebral Palsy or Autism. However, children with CP or Autism exhibit other symptoms of neurological dysfunction outside of the sleep time routine. Pickle does not. He only rocks. The books went on to reiterate that this behavior is totally normal. They did not indicate this is only a post institutionalization issue. This happens in biological children too. The books say there is nothing we can really do for him at this point other than to just let him rock. Children do this for attention getting purposes in many cases.

For Pickle rocking has been two fold. Attention getting and habit. At this point it is more attention getting. We went through a phase were he jumped about in his bed, threw George, Steve and Elmo out of the bed and carried on. We ignored him and that stopped.

Today, the rocking is getting better. I have been spending a little bit of time each day just cuddling with Pickle. He's not so into this at first, but we play little attachment games and he loves it. Since doing this he only rocks for about 20 minutes each night. This opposed to the 60 or so he did before. The odd phenomenon is that he rocks less when it is just me at night. He rocks longer when CS is home. Odd.

Either way in the past 5 months we are making progress. The rocking is less violent, and sleep time is less disturbing for him. Hopefully we are moving to this stopping all together.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Pickle's Lifebook
Somehow I posted at Life of Elle that I scrapbook. I wouldn't so much call it scrapbooking as copying ideas out of a magazine and implementing them into my son's album. I call it more of stealing. Well, Debi P found out that I "scrapbook" and asked why I never posted any pictures of my work. Frankly I didn't find it that post worthy. But Debi being the good friend brow beat me into it. So I took photos of all the pages I have done of Pickle's lifebook and put them into a slide show. I also have a small story book for him (that isn't finished.) I took photos of those and you get to see that too.

I will give any PAP out there a little bit of advice though. It may seem tempting to start on the lifebook before you have your child home, but if you ask me this is a bad idea. Granted my time to scrapbook is limited since I am the mother to an energetic 2 year old, but I am glad I waited. I started Alexander's book between trips. I had a few pages done and when we lost his referral I had to pull all of those pages out of the book. It broke my heart. I still have them. They are tucked away in a box of things that have his name on them. I am not saying that everyone will lose their referral, but it is just something to think about. There were all kinds of things that I shouldn't have done; paint his name on the wall, quilt his name into a quilt just to name a few.

Anyway... here you go.

Established March 19, 2006