Friday, April 27, 2007

My 36K child

Dear ones, you are looking at a very expensive child asleep there. Yes, that's Miss Veeka in one of her I'm-pretending-I'm-a-turtle sleeping poses. Meanwhile, her mom is having a heart attack after finally getting around to adding up all the receipts for ALL the adoption expenses paid out since late 2003. Granted, there was an expensive detour through America World - lost $1,100 with them - after they swore they weren't doing Kazakhstan adoptions and booted me out of their agency. Then I found out 6 months later they were, in fact, premiering a Kazakh program. Am still shaking my head over that deceit.
Anyway, once I added up what it cost to get birth certificates, FBI checks, fingerprints, background checks, physicals, notaries, money orders, home study fees, plus apostilling all my notarized documents (Fed Ex made hundreds of dollars off of me), plus the international doctor's advice - at $350 a shot - oh, and the $12,000 fee to get a child under 2...not to mention the $255 for the visa that was supposed to be multiple entry - instead it was a messed-up single entry visa that cost me $300 in-country to fix, the list goes on and on.
I split up the expenses into Before and During. Before, I spent $17,747 before getting on the plane. Adoption agencies alone charge about $5,000 and it goes up from there. Then during my seven weeks in Kazakhstan, I dropped another $18,700. Now the $700 was souvenirs and gifts I could have done without. But 18K included an amazing $12,400 something I had to pay in cash to the adoption coordinator - who refused to give me a receipt! Yes, I complained to the American embassy about her - not that it will do any good. My adoption agency is supposed to give me a receipt at the end of the year for tax purposes - hopefully their figures will match my figures, especially since so much was not receipted. My Kazakh adoption coordinator - Baha is her name - kept on hitting me up for money to the point that on the day I got custody of little Veeka, I finally put my foot down. That was the day she wanted an extra $300 for the orphange.
Now, Rudny Specialized Baby House, as it was called, is a good place but again, Baha, wanted the money given to her, not to the orphanage director. I had no way of knowing if it'd end up paying for Baha's 5th car or if it'd really help the folks in Rudny. So I said I was not giving any more money. Baha got back at us, however; as reported previously, on the day we flew out of the country, we got socked with a $380 bill for our kids' visas by the US embassy. Baha had "forgotten" to tell us about that expense.
The rest of the 18K was for hotels, meals, Internet cafes, strollers and just surviving for seven weeks in north central Kazakhstan. Fortunately, the hotel in Kostenai, where we spent 6 weeks, was $60/day; cheap compared to Almaty, where we paid $100/day. Life in central Asia is not cheap; when I flew into the country, the coordinators said they couldn't find any rooms for us in Almaty, so I was on my own. I stayed at the Hyatt - the only place I could locate on the Internet. Two nights there was $879.
People ask: How did you come up with that money? Well, thank God for home equity loans, book advances, gifts from parents and the Lord's supernatural provision. Oh, and my car is going on 11 years old. I'm "only" in debt $7,000, which will get taken care of next year when the federal government gives me the adoption reimbursement of 10K. So we're not swimming in green stuff here by far. Fortunately, generous friends have insured that Veeka has enough clothes and toys to last us until the Second Coming. And for my huge investment, I have a little cutie pie who greets me every morning with giggles and shouts.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Veeka turns 2

While Pope Benedict XVI celebrated his 80th birthday, Our Little Celebrity turned 2. The party was on a very blustery, rainy Sunday afternoon; still, 27 people braved the elements to come wish Veeka a happy birthday; a lot more folks, I might add, than who came to *my* birthday party last year.
Everyone wanted to see our bouncing princess, who was in her usual good mood and happy to sit on various peoples' laps inbetween the opening of many presents. Clad in a white-and-pink frock sent from Anita Higman in Texas, she got all sorts of wonderful things: classic hard-back childrens' books, some cool stuffed horses and puppy dogs, many sets of pretty, pretty clothes, money, puzzles, games and even a call from Oma and Opa who wanted to sing her happy birthday but she'd fallen asleep by then, pooped after all the festivities.
The afternoon started when Diane Karadimos arrived to help make the lime punch, albeit squeezing 11 limes was not her idea of a great time. But a nice punch was made and then the guests began to drop in. By the time a few had arrived, we decided to sing her happy birthday at which point (see first photo), Debra Mattingly held her by the lilies and over the cake while Frye Mattingly - who'd just had a birthday I think - helped her to blow out the candles. You can only see the top of his head and the yellow-and-blue butter icing (color of the Kazakh flag) atop the carrot cake.
More guests arrived with gaily decorated packages at which point Veeka took refuge on Terry Mattingly's lap while he and Debra read to her from her new ladybug book (a gift from Ellen Campbell I believe). It's amazing what's out there in childrens' books; one of the gifts had little lights that lit up to represent fireflies. Kids' books come with the most amazing appendages; another has a literal tube that folds out into an elephant's trunk that arches between the pages.
At one point Veeka got upset that I was doing all the unwrapping so she tried to help (3rd photo). Even more intriguing when when Sarah Lohmann showed up with 5-month-old Anna Maria, which Veeka thought was a really cool doll for her to keep (fourth photo). It took a few minutes to set her straight. Also there were two women from my local single moms support group who are thinking of adopting from Kazakhstan and who wanted to see what a real live kid from there looks like.
This morning, Veeka crawled into bed with me and gave me lots of kisses. I think I'll keep her.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Easter day with Oliveeka

Our soon-to-be 2-year-old comported herself beautifully this past Sunday. First, we went to St Ann's Catholic Church in Annapolis with friends only to find it truly brimming with people standing in the aisles. So we shoved our way past everyone (reporters learn to act like that - else we'd never get to write our stories!) to find several kids seated on the front steps leading up to the altar. We too sat on the steps with them but were presented with a problem: How to keep the moppet quiet for the full hour while the Mass was going on. Well - I dug out every item in my purse for her to go through and examine. When the music began she'd stand up and sway, much to the amusement of onlookers. Amazingly, she hardly uttered a peep.
As a reward, I took her to a nearby playground afterwards, then to a bakery on the city's waterfront where she quickly consumed a whole pastry - what we used to call an elephant's ear. Then it was off to a lovely waterfront restaurant called Sam's on the Waterfront where the whole Vuoto clan + friends (these are my Canadian/Italian friends) sat around and ate and chatted for 4 hours. Like I said, they are Italians. Miss Veeka sat at the head of the table and amused everyone, including local patrons. Doing without a nap was a hardship, so she got testy around mid-afternoon. But, dressed in that darling Polly Flinders-style dress that Becky bought her, she was a true belle of the ball, albeit, covered in stockings and long sleeves because of the freezing weather. Jeff Kuhner (who has married the middle Vuoto daughter, Grace - pictured here in blue) pronounced Veeka his "little tzarina." That's because my daughter's heritage is Tatar - she comes from the Crimea region south of Moscow where, unfortunately, Stalin did his best to massacre every Tatar he could find. The remaining Tatars still wish to be independent of Mother Russia but do n't hold your breath!
Coming up: Veeka's open house this Sunday from 4-6. If you're local, come by...

Friday, April 6, 2007

That first week back at work

...and was it tiring. My goodness, fitting in breakfast and maybe a run in the jogging stroller, then over to the daycare (which had an Easter egg hunt today; Veeka was not impressed) and then to work. Getting there is not bad as I still miss the worst of the rush hour. But leaving at 5 p.m. to hit the worst of the traffic - aaargh. I've found the quickest route home possible but on a good day it still takes a solid 50 minutes in killer traffic. Again, that's a *good* day.
This week was quieter than last week. We said good-bye to Nancy and Alex, who won't be back in Virginia for a long time - if ever - and then today the Little One got her citizenship papers along with a letter from George W. Bush. So on Monday it's over to the Social Security office to apply for a card and then to the post office to apply for a U.S. passport. And then we can travel!
Tomorrow, Susan is coming over to watch Veeka while I get my taxes done. Can't add up those numbers with her running about; am including a photo of her smiling mischievously at the kitty.