Monday, January 31, 2011

Spiritual Markers

This blog entry is going to be a little different. I know the name of our blog is Finding Martin, but I think it’s okay if it’s not all about him. Not to mention, sadly, we have no updates on our adoption process right now. We tried yet another new church Sunday in hopes of finding “the one”. I think this is the 5th or 6th church in a year. I think however, this might be it. I know I have said this before, but really this time! The atmosphere was great, the music was really good, it was a diverse group of people, and I liked the message. I am also big on “signs”. If this next part isn’t a sign then I don’t know what is. The first part of the hour was spent on adoption, supporting adoption, and the pastor was even wearing a T-shirt he bought from a family in his congregation raising money to adopt 3 children. They even have a small group supporting parents or soon to be parents adopting or becoming a foster parents! I couldn’t believe it. Needless to say, we are going back next week to look into that group a little more.

The main message was about using spiritual markers to mark your faith. For example, he had a bible that was given to him by his neighbor. This neighbor was the man responsible for getting him involved in a church at a young age when his own parents had nothing to do with the church. He has that bible some 20 years later. He doesn’t use it, but keeps it in a special place and pulls it out from time to time just to remind him where he came from and who he is today. I got to thinking about how I didn’t have any markers, none that I could think of anyway. None that I could put in a box in a special place to pull out and look at from time to time like he did. That got me started thinking of how my faith began in the first place. I always went to church when I was younger. My mom attended therefore I did as well. I went just to go, never getting anything from it or giving anything in return. It was a check in the box. Then I grew up, went to college for a bit, joined the Marine Corps for a bit, and then I met Charlie. He had pretty much the same background. Went to church when he was younger only because parents made him. Most people know our story…if not…I’ll save that for another time…but we got married and VERY soon after decided to have a baby! Everyone does know this story. Our baby was born with Down syndrome. As scary and new as that was, it was nothing compared to the laundry list of health issues many people with DS face. The first and foremost was his heart. Thankfully, there was not an issue that had to be dealt with immediately but eventually the day came and we found ourselves in Boston at Children’s Hospital Boston. They are the number one children’s hospital when dealing with pediatric cardiothoracic surgeries. Thank you Tricare Prime for letting us pick the surgeon. Of course, I won’t go into the process, thoughts, feelings, beer drinking and nightmares leading up to the day of his pre-surgery appointment. Any of you with kids can most likely imagine. The night before the pre-surgery Charlie and I needed a little break. So we left 10 month old Haiden with my mom and went on a walk. Holding hands and trying to keep
our faith we jokingly said to one another “maybe we’ll get there tomorrow and they will tell us he won’t need surgery”. We got up early the next morning however, and spent all day long watching him get poked and prodded. We sat through shots, blood draws, chest xrays, sedations, waking up too early from sedations, and more sedations, EKGs, and on and on and on. Finally, we were waiting in yet another room in the evening waiting to talk to the cardiologist. He walked into the room full of extremely tired parents, and a easy going little baby boy He looked at us and said “Haiden doesn’t need surgery. We can’t explain it, his heart has all but healed itself”! I can explain it. God is amazing, and forgiving, and understand, and patient and loving! He listens if you talk loud enough and from then on my faith in Him has been alive! I realized that I had 2 spiritual markers. Boston and Haiden! They are my markers and responsible for my new refreshed relationship with Jesus Christ and faith.

I have also realized since Sunday that I have 2 more markers. Again, nothing I can put away under my bed or at the top of my closet to pull out and remind me in case I forget. I get to see marker number 2 all day every day! Marker number 2 is Noah
Joseph House. My baby boy born even after I swore there would be only Haiden! As some can imagine after Haiden was born with DS, Charlie and I struggled with knowing what to do about more children. Should we, shouldn’t we, what if this baby was born with DS, what if this baby was born with another disability. Don’t get me wrong, we would love whoever was given to us. At the time though, sometimes people can’t see past certain fears. Charlie and I were scared for ourselves, Haiden, and scared for this new little baby that we were trying to decide if we should even try to have. After months of talking, and praying,crying, and talking some more…we grabbed each other’s hands, closed our eyes, and jumped! Through faith, we now have son number 2! Healthy, happy, so beautiful, and spiritual marker number 2!

My third marker and last so far at this point in my life would be Martin. Not even knowing his real name or where he is, I know that bringing him into our family is what God wants Charlie and I to do. I am as sure of this as I am sure of my love for my boys…all of them…Charlie, Haiden, Noah, and Martin. Any of our faithful followers of our blog know the story of how we came across Martin. We found his picture on Reeces’s Rainbow and fell in love right from the beginning. I have never had a doubt in my mind since I saw him that he was ours. I was just telling a new friend of mine this morning, I have doubts about EVERYTHING in my life. Am I raising my boys right, am I going to choose the right speech therapist for Haiden, am I feeding Noah the right amount of food for his age, should I have bought whole wheat bread instead of whole grain??? I have NEVER since the adoption process started for us questioned a single thing. I have no idea what medical issues face us when we get him home. I have no idea what kind of place he is in or how he as been treated. I don’t even know his name. The scariest thing is…we have no idea how we are going to get the $33 thousand that this is going to cost in order for us to get him home. The only sleep I have lost is because I want him home sooner. This tells me God lead us to him. He is ours and it is as simple as that. No questions asked. He called and we answered blindly and faithfully! Martin(2H) you are my spiritual marker number 3!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Why Does Reality Hurt So Much?

Well, Monday we asked the hard that we new the answer, but we were never officially told. You see, we read back in the beginning of December that Martin was transferred from Baby House - 13 to an institution. But we were told nothing and in these types of cases, those who may know can't really talk about least officially. So, yesterday Melissa asked our adoption agency the pointed question...."Where is our son?" "Where exactly is he?"

It is hard to imagine that parents can create a bond with a child they have never met and only seen a few pictures is hard to imagine that two people can fall in love with this blond haired little boy at first glance on the is even harder to imagine that in less than 2 months, we think of him as only our blood and our son.

So Melissa got a response directly from the liaison in Russia who knows Martin, as she knows most of the children in Region 2. She wrote "Martin was transferred to the institution. Unfortunately, I am not allowed go there without an official referral."

That was the day that everything became so real for us. I was at work when Melissa forwarded this email to me.......without question, I knew exactly what Melissa was doing at that moment in time. I knew she was crying. I could never explain in a million years what I felt. All I can do is describe how my body reacted......I began shaking, my eyes just filled up uncontrollably, I could no longer breathe because the air became so heavy, and it felt like a part of my heart died there...and finally the feeling of helplessness overwhelmed me. I, as the father...the man of the supposed to protect my family. I can do that (hell, I am a United States Marine), but I could nothing for Martin.

I did the only thing that I could think of....I knew that St. Lucia did not send the Marriage Certificate on Friday, like I was promised. The poor lady on the other end of the phone would no longer get the "patient father" or "kind man." She had no idea what she was about to get. So I called St. Lucia, she answered and I told her this was William House. Before I opened my mouth to lay into her, she very quickly said, "Mr. House, it will be delivered tomorrow, I dropped it off this morning." She has no idea how lucky she was. I did not say thank you, I just told her that I will be calling if I do not get it and hung up. I think she sensed that I was finished dealing with them and was highly irritated.

Well gang, I didn't have to call her. We got our Marriage Certificates the next day and best of all, we finally were able to mail off our Registration Dossier and our I-600A to the Department of Charge Too Much for Filing Homeland Security.

There will be another entry this afternoon or tomorrow to describe the next steps in this choose your own adventure story......Charlie

Friday, January 21, 2011

This weeks progress....

So I posted our goals at the beginning of the week! I did, however, promise to provide an update midweek. I didn't have the heart to do that since at that point there was nothing new. But yesterday, Thursday, we actually had a very productive day. The bottomline for yesterday is that we got our entire Registration Dossier apostilled. We hand delivered it to Richmond and did a walk-in. That had it finished within 2 hours.....and best of all, it only cost about $130. I was pleasantly surprised. I am, however, extremely dissappointed that $130 is a price that I am okay with at this point. I am convinced there is a better way to handle these adoptions and not make them so darn expensive. Come on, $1500 for a Home Study? Does it really take $1500 worth of work. I don't think so. These agencies are 501(c)3 organizations and should be getting grant money from local, state, and federal sources. Not the pockets of the parents.

Anyway, enough of my soap box. Our I-600A will be sumbitted today as well. All in all, a pretty good week. I didn't mention our Marriage Certificate....that is because St. Lucia is still working on it. So that is my first phone call today. Thank goodness they apostille it there and I don't have to do it. So, we are going to mail our Registration Dossier (minus Marriage Cert) to Hand in Hand and have them ensure all is good while we wait for the marriage cert. Hopefully that will save us time on the other end.

I am just glad the weekend is here. I heard there is some good beer to be consumed...and I know just where to get it....Charlie

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

You Are Invited To A Birthday Party!

You’re invited to a party!

For: Martin’s 5th Birthday

When: January 20, 2011

Where: Cyberspace

This Thursday is Martin's birthday. Martin turns 5 years old. I am holding a virtual birthday party for Martin and YOU are invited.

How many birthday parties have you been invited to in your lifetime? Isn't one of the first questions you ask yourself when you get an invitation, "What present shall I bring?"

Well, you know what the best present would be for this party? You know what Martin really needs? He needs us to have the money we need to fully fund his adoption, so we can make those two trips to EE and bring him home.

What present would you bring to Martin's real-world birthday? Would it be a LEGO set at $24.99? Maybe you would bring a gift certificate to the local book store at $20.00, or would it be one of those StarWars light sabers, or maybe a new soccer ball?

Whatever it is, whatever you would spend to bring Martin a present for his real-world birthday party, I am asking you make a tax deductible donation in that amount to our FSP on RR. You can do that through the Martin button on the sidebar next to this post.

You are invited to Martin's party. It would be rude not to bring a present. ;-)

Monday, January 17, 2011

This Week's Goals!

Well, it is that time again to try and regain some ground and reach our first true objective......Submission of our Registration Dossier to Hand in Hand by Friday. This is going to take some serious effort from St. Lucia. For some reason, they are having a heck of a time making 3 copies of our marriage certificate and having them apostilled. I am in daily contact with Sandals Resort in St. Lucia to try and push from that end. I think I am going to tell them that Melissa and I will need to travel to St. Lucia for the week to take care of this in person......hahah, but seriously! We also got the final 3 documents signed from our Social Worker today that we were waiting for. We have all documents notarized this weekend. The plan is to drive down to Richmond on Thursday to get everything apostille and then have it back in FEDEX either that day or Friday. Then the true timeline begins. If everything goes as planned (yeah right!) on the agency side, it is estimated to take 21 days to get our date back from Russia. Fingers crossed!

That's it for now, will give an update on Wednesday.....Charlie

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Home Study Complete!!

So, its been a few days since our last post. I just wanted to give everyone an update on our progress. It has been quite the hectic 2 weeks as it is the time of year for Haiden to have his blood drawn and see all of his specialist. So Melissa has been running around from Fairfax to Fredericksburg getting Haiden to his appointments. We will see today if Haiden needs to get tubes back into his ears. Our gut feeling is yes, so that is yet another set of appointments.

Anyway, so our home study is complete. It actually has been completed since last week, but we finally got the originals 2 days ago. So, today we will be sending out our I-600A and start that process. Thank goodness that we don't have to wait for that to get back before we move on. It seems to be a lengthy process, but we won't need it until we go back for the final trip. In the meantime, we are working with St. Lucia to get our multiple copies of our marriage license and having them apostilled. That has been painful because they haven't been able to find the "book" with our marriage number / marriage officer in it. So instead of waiting for their Civil Status Registrar Agency to figure this out, Melissa called Sandals (where we got married) and got the information we needed from them. So now I am working both ends and hopefully they will meet int the middle. I told them that I need it in my hands by next Wednesday.

Melissa also picked up our Psych Eval yesterday. I think out of everything, that was the most painful process. Not because of the actual questions (although there were some strange questions to answer), but because the doctor's office was the most clueless and unprofessional place that I have seen so far. Not because people were being rude to us, but because we explained to them how everything has to look (i.e. the notary portion) several times to include emails with examples. It took them over a week to get their own notary just to sign it. They couldn't return calls or emails. Once it was all said and done, she picked it up yesterday and they did all wrong. So, because we have learned to be extremely resourceful since this process began, Melissa immediately called Susan from Hand in Hand and she provided some advice. Luckily our close friend works somewhat (sort of) in the near proximity (30 minutes) from the doctors office. So Melissa went there to get her to notarize it. It was such a pain. Melissa may even do a separate blog entry on that situation by itself. I am sure I am missing plenty and probably even got some fact wrong.

I plan to hand deliver our registration packet to the Apostille office in Richmond next Thursday for walk-in service and then have it mailed to Hand in Hand on Friday. Fingers crossed, we could potentially have a response from the Russian government by the middle of February....with hopefully a flight date that is shortly after that..... (we all have to have goals!!)

So today, we are tightening up our registration packet. Attaching our pictures and doing any last minute adjustments / fixes and then our close friend will be ready to notarize everything this weekend and we are good to go.

I am going for now because Melissa took Haiden to the ENT and Noah and I are hanging out. I need to do a few things before she gets back and I head to work......Charlie

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Waiting, and waiting, and waiting........

Good morning you guys. For some reason I woke up in a pretty good mood this morning! I'm not sure why because I woke up in a panic. Instead of having another beautiful dream about Martin, I had one of those dreams where all your teeth fall out of your mouth. Holy know that one I'm talking about. Anyway, just thought I would update you all on our situation. I was supposed to go pick up our psych evals today but we are having a little trouble communicating with them. Apparently their notary doesn't ever work! Tried tracking her down yesterday and I waited until 6pm for the doctor to tell me sorry must have missed her at her desk. Since she was not supposed to be in all week, I'm not sure what the next move is. Everything is signed already so I can have a notary on my side do it. Going back to having great friends, I have a friend that was willing to take off work, drive quite a distance, and notarize it for me. That couldn't work since it's already signed! As for the passport thing, again people are amazing. Our friends co-worker found a his old manager from when they worked at the passport office together who is going to help us. No waiting for weeks! Thank you Natalia, thank you Seth, and thank you passport manager! I can't wait to meet all these people in person who have helped us so much along this wild ride!

Our party planning is going well. Our list is getting longer and longer every single day which is very promising. I love this evite thing. It's so much easier than sitting down and addressing 100 envelopes! We are just about done gathering all the email address to send them out and realized we forgot to put directions on them. Talk about a JV move! At least we caught it first...and when I say we...I mean Charlie.

Some more very exciting news! We reached our second goal of $4000. I am so excited. I still can't believe that we have such good friends and that so many strangers have helped us get to where we are. Sooooooo, to everyone that has helped us get this far, I love you!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Event Preparation While Marking Time tonight we are working diligently on preparing for our upcoming party that Melissa mentioned in the previous post. Once the boys went to bed, she continued in the collection of email addresses for all of the people we want to evite to this event. We reserved the venue today. It will be here on base at the local military housing community center. It is a beautiful place that is cozy. We are working on getting some "in-kind" donations of food and catering "type" equipment as well. I have been working on a flyer that is "Our Story" for people that have asked for something to handout for request of donations.

Some of the things we have found out so far in the amazing adventure. We have amazing friends. Just today, a good friend asked Panera's to see if they can donate a gift certificate to give away as a raffle at the party. She was able to get donated a free bagel pack per month for a year. That's about a dozen bagels and cream cheese each month. How cool is that??? That is just the beginning. We plan to have plenty to give away that night. Hopefully that will get more people to come to the party.

As for the Marking Time, we have ran into a holding pattern that I am working on getting us through. As we were prepared to finish our Registration Dossier this week and have it Apostilled and sent to Hand in Hand, we found out that Melissa's passport has her previous last name. This is a problem and cannot be accepted as all names need to match. Well, the Passport Agency can expedite passports; however, that means 2-3 weeks instead of the 4-6 weeks. This is not exceptable to me. They do have an appointment method for those that are flying within 14 days. The catch is that you must provide a ticket or itinerary in order make this happen. I pleaded with the lady and told our dice! So, going back to my previous remark about amazing friends. Another great friend, who both Melissa and I served with in the Marine Corps (have I mentioned that Melissa is a former Marine!) now works for the State Department. I have asked her for additional assistance. So tomorrow, we may be able to make some headway that will not take 2-3 weeks and possibly have it truly expedited. We shall see......

The Home Study is all but complete. They are waiting for (1) line from our Psych Eval that we pick up on Thursday and my oldest son's medical evaluation was not signed by a physician (it was a PA instead). So tomorrow I head to Ft. Belvoir (darn Army...LOL..but seriously!) and hopefully get his doctor to sign off on it too.

A final reflection on my thoughts....I often ponder what Martin is doing right now. I think I am afraid to really know what he is doing. When I try and make myself visualize it, all I can see is his perfect face staring up at me and smiling and his pudgy little fingers holding a toy. In my little world, that is all he is doing. He is smiling and laughing. So instead of trying to block it out, I choose to imagine him here at home with us and how he will be playing with Haiden and Noah. Haiden will be teaching him all the naughty things he knows that sends him to time out and Noah will show him how it is funny to laugh and smile and Mommy and Daddy when they tell him "No."

That is enough for tonight. We are turning in for now.

Standing Still

Good morning everyone! I am writing to update everyone on our newest fund raiser that we are in them middle of. I say newest but it's actually our first and I'm really excited and optimistic about it. We of course are copying off a friend who did the same thing. We are hosting a party for Martin the weekend before Valentine's Day. I chose the weekend before in case couples are wanting to go out and celebrate this day on their own. The party of course has a Valentine's theme. We are sending our evites (in hopes of saving a little money) and providing food. We are looking into a caterer who might donate their services or equipment of anything. If not, I'll be making the food big deal! We are in the middle of getting items donated so that we can use them to raffle off during our party. THANK YOU NATALIE FOR TAKING CARE OF GETTING US THE IPOD!!! I am also going to Walmart, Best Buy, Panera, Starbucks, and a few other places such as for maybe gift certificates to see if they will donate something...anything. If anyone else has any ideas, please feel free to email, fb, or reply to this post. I would love to hear more ideas. We are also asking for a minimum of a $25 donation. I am kind of scared to do this. I'm afraid that it will scare people off, but so far everyone that I have run this by tells me it's a great idea. We shall see!

We are kind of at a stand still as far as Martin's fund right now so if anyone else has any ideas please send them my way. I am also starting the process of asking people for items they would want to get rid of so I could put on a yard sale. I know that after Christmas is a good time to get rid of kid's old toys so again, if you want to help or know somebody that needs to get rid of junk, send them our way! I want to also put out there to any of our wonderful followers, if you could please pass our story along if you haven't already we would appreciate it so much. You never know, there is always someone who knows someone, who knows somebody, who wants to help. Every dollar and email forward is one step closer to getting Martin home to us!!!