September 30, 2007

Clearance Received!

We're in MN with family this weekend but the highlight of the last few days has definitely been the email/call from our social worker to confirm that our clearances have been received and our home study is now complete! We're very anxious to complete the I-600A and send it off to CIS now that our home study document is ready. Another box to check off!

There have been several other conversations/developements of interest this weekend which we'll comment on later this week - but nothing can top officially being in the next stage!

September 25, 2007

Waiting on Clearance

The next step in the adoption process is to send our application for the I-600A to CIS, however this cannot happen until our home study is complete. The only thing holding up our official home study document is our FBI clearances, which we're patiently waiting for. As soon as our social worker receives these clearances our home study will officially be complete and we can send everything in for CIS approval, which is one of the last steps before sending everything off to Ethiopia. This is the first time that we've both felt as though everything is "in place" yet we're unable to move forward due to waiting on approval/clearance from another agency. We really hope that these clearances are received soon so that our CIS application can be on it's way and approval right around the corner. Cross your fingers!

September 23, 2007

Fork, Spoon, Chopsticks, and Injera

My husband and I have traveled extensively so have had the honor of partaking in many different ethnic cuisines. Even in the beginning of our relationship we took notice of the mothers who would bring their children to sushi restaurants to teach them the basics of chopsticks and the families in the Turkish restaurants who modeled the art of the bread-to-entree technique. I think that one of the things we're most looking forward to is exposing our child to the plethora of ethic cuisines available and the many different and interesting ways to eat these cuisines.


We are so excited to begin cooking Ethiopian food. We purchased an Ethiopian cookbook online from someone with the screen name "church lady" and it's fantastic. Although we've eaten at quite a few Ethiopian restaurants we've never been a part of the preparation or involved in the ingredients-gathering stage. I was very happy to read that the majority of the recipes are simple roasts that include a protein (chicken, beef, or lamb) and an assortment of the following:
- onions (specifically noted in many recipes as fried without grease)
- red peppers
- butter
- cardamom
- black pepper
- garlic
- ginger
- salt
- red wine (or t'ej)
- water
- eggs/lime

And of course, injera. injera is the traditional bread eaten with Ethiopian cuisine and also serves as the utensil for the meal. Injera is broken into pieces and used to scoop up the various meat roasts, vegetable entrees, and bean dishes. Traditionally there are multiple spreads served on top of a plate of injera with several rolls of injera served in a separate basket on the side. You can then tear pieces of injera from the rolls and scoop up bites of the spreads. It's very family style and very fantastic.

We're in the beginning stages of preparing several recipes from our new cookbook, and mastering injera feels like the appropriate place to start. The only problem is that there is barley injera, corn injera, rice injera, and many other forms of injera. My gut tells me that we'll be fondest of rice injera (we usually cook with rice pasta) but really am not sure. I suppose we'll start with the rice-based recipe and see how it goes. We're visiting MN next weekend (taking dad to THE Vikings Packers game) and would love to prepare an Ethiopian meal and want to make sure that we're able to prepare injera before hand, so I suppose we'll be practicing that tonight and tomorrow just to make sure.

September 22, 2007

Family, Proximity, And

An ongoing conversation that we have is that of living thousands of miles away from the majority of our family. Both my husband and I have embraced the tradition of inviting others into our home for dinners, celebrations, etc... however there is just something special about being able to invite family over every now and then. We love having company, and do so fairly frequently, however company is inherently friends and not necessarily family. We do have an aunt/uncle/cousin who live nearby in PA but the majority of our family lives in the Midwest. The ability to call mom, grandma, aunt, or sister over for a random coffee chat or meal mid-week is something I think most take for granted and don't realize how special this ability truly is.

This weekend my aunt and uncle, retired educators, stopped by for a couple of nights on their tour of the northeast. It has been nothing less than fantastic to have family around for the weekend. It's even better that this part of the family tends to swing towards our end of the political pendulum making for quite interesting political conversation at the dinner table. It's also nice to know that I'm not the only Wienke to have a tendency towards sarcasm. (Go caramel)

One thing that I will take away from this weekend is that the family connection is not something that is met purely through constant interaction with each other, but that it's carried on through our traits as well. My uncle reminds me so much of my grandmother, and sitting around the dinner table talking about "things" brought back so many memories of my grandmother and grandfather that simply put, nobody else could have possible rendered. My grandfather was the type to take me on an imaginary hop-scotch tour to McDonald's for an ice cream cone, where my grandmother made sure the last pea on my plate was finished before allowing any form of moving on from dinner for the evening. They were lovely people, and an absolutely amazing couple, but I certainly remember specific traits that made them "them" and having my uncle to visit this weekend reminded me of many of those. It's fun to have that.

I often wonder how we will create moments like these for our child. We definitely plan on visiting Ethiopia with our child, however the inherent "your face looks like grandma's" and "that's an expression grandpa would make!" are things that will have different meanings for our child. The family connection is so important, and making this connection is going to introduce challenges. I know that these are challenges that will be met and overcome. Every family has their challenges, distance often being one of them. Thank goodness for Internet, airports, and caramels.

September 20, 2007

Daycare, Au Pair, Nanny, Oh My!

This may seem like we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves seeing as our dossier isn't even in Ethiopia yet and we're researching childcare options, but to be honest this is one of those topics that deserves quite a bit of thought so we're ok with it. The fact is that we both work full time, and although we work in flexible industries that support remote employment the reality is that we are going to need childcare in some form or another. Here are the options that have surfaced so far:

- Au Pair: Wow, so as long as we have space to provide room and board to a European 18-20'something and $150/week we're guaranteed 45 hours a week of dedicated childcare. European influence, supporting international living/experiences...seems to flow off the tongue nicely!

- Sister: I have a younger sister (3 years younger) who may or may not benefit from a move out east. She would fit in fantastically in New York or New Paltz, but would be giving up quite a bit by leaving her hometown in MN. It feels like if everything fell into place in just the right way that this could be the best situation ever, but at the same time things would need to fall into place perfectly for this to happen.

- Babysitter: We live in one of the top 50 hottest college towns according to Newsweek Magazine. Doesn't that scream a pool of potential babysitters?

We just don't know. I think the right solution will surface over the next several months, but weighing the benefits between a full time Au Pair vs those of a local babysitter vs those of a sister is just a huge amount to consider. Each really does deserve it's own post come to think of it.

That said, we're still waiting for our social worker to receive our FBI clearances so that we can send in our immigration application to USCIS and finally send everything off to Ethiopia. This is the first time we've had to wait for an extended period of time for someone else to complete their responsibilities in this process and I must say it's not fun. Hopefully the next week will bring more solid updates!

September 18, 2007


We had dinner at Meskel this evening. It's located on a quiet corner near East 4th St. and Avenue B and appears to be run by one front-of-the-house server and one or two chefs in the kitchen. Meskel bills itself as "home cooking" and the reviews, for the most part, rave about the fabulous flavors. The only negative reviews come from restaurant goers who complain about the service, but I think those complaining about the service might also be the type who ask for silverware in an Ethiopian restaurant or insist on cutting their sushi with a knife and fork. Eating with your hands sans silverware is actually quite a liberating experience. Despite the stress of the day both of us radiated a sort of, "who cares if I lick the remnants of the delicious spicy lentils off of my fingers and soon after reach for more injera and cabbage?" kind of attitude. It was lovely. Meskel was a bit pricey for the portions but the server was absolutely lovely and the atmosphere fantastic so I'm sure we'll be back.

One new topic that came from this evening's dinner conversation was that of world music. The tunes being played at Meskel were great and we can't wait to learn more about the artists. Another new topic that came from this evening's dinner conversation is that neither of us knows how to pronounce Ethiopian food correctly. I simply must learn Amharic.

September 17, 2007

Clarification, And Then More Clarification

One process that we've come to know well throughout this whole process is that of clarification. CHI is fantastic at providing lists, timelines, instructions, etc... and we find ourselves double and triple checking them all the time. Even then we've needed additional clarification which we've sought through our adoption consultant at the agency. She always politely answers our questions and doesn't even mention the fact that the answers were all staring us right in the face on page 17 of the dossier workbook. She's fantastic.

Today's point of clarification had to do with fingerprinting. When we were first accepted into the Ethiopia program one of our first to-do's was to visit our local police precinct and have them write and notarize a letter stating that our criminal history was clear of any serious infractions. Of course this type of background check will be done several times by several different layers of city, state, and US governments agencies by the time our dossier is complete, but this was the first. We also had to be fingerprinted which I think the agency used as a part of our FBI clearance but I'm not entirely clear on that one. All we knew (and cared about) was that it had to be done prior to having a social worker assigned, so we just did it. The clarification became necessary when we learned that we will need to be fingerprinted again once we send in our I-600A form to the USCIS for immigration approval. Do we really need to be fingerprinted twice? Yup. We hope the second time around is as interesting as the first...

Our first experience being fingerprinted in New Paltz took place on a calm weekday evening. Seemed simple enough, just go to our local police precinct and give them our finger print cards and 5 minutes later we'd be on our way. Evidently the NPPD frowns on fingerprinting walk-ins so we patiently waited in the small entryway while the evening troops wrapped up their shift meeting. While waiting we were able to brush up on our gang symbols and ways to prevent forest fires at the same time via various posters hanging on the wall. In a town of outdoor enthusiast hippie-types we had to laugh at the dicotomy of the two subject matters. When they were ready for us they called us in one at a time and I went first. One of the officers in the room informed me that he and his wife just completed their home study for their adoption from Guatemala! We chat a bit about the process, our agencies, and then an officer asked me to remove my wedding ring for the fingerprinting. I did what any other person would do, right?

Me: "Slurp"
Officer: "Did you just do what I think you did?"
Me: "Sorry Sir, my wedding ring is really hard to remove."
Officer: "Did you honestly just lick your finger right before I have to take your fingerprints?"
Me: (sheepish grin) "I'm sorry, do you have some soap? Remind me to warn my husband when it's his turn please..."

The officer took my fingerprints and I wished the officer who is also in the adoption process best of luck. I returned to the lobby. Now it's my husbands turn:

Officer: "Please remove your..."
Mike: (before the officer has a chance to finish his sentence and is still facing the wall) "Slurp"
Officer: "You didn't! In 20 years of fingerprinting I've never had one person lick their finger to remove their wedding ring let along BOTH the husband AND the wife!"
Room: Laughter breaks out
Me: I smile from the other side of the door, knowing exactly what just happened. Hard to argue what a good match we make!

Next time we'll bring lotion and remove our rings prior to being called in to the fingerprinting room. Won't be nearly as much fun though!

September 16, 2007

Baby Bean

We're both avid coffee drinkers and as such can't wait to sample the locale beans when we're in Ethiopia picking up our our child, our own Baby Bean. We received word on Friday that our home study document is complete and is just waiting the final FBI clearances that should be on their way shortly. Once they arrive we'll be able to send everything off to USCIS for approval and then it's off to Ethiopia! We would love our dossier to be in Ethiopia by Thanksgiving. Talk about something fabulous to be thankful for!

Baby Bean: The Vikings Fan

We've been doing a lot of reading on raising an Ethiopian child and being a multi-racial family in books such as "I'm Chocolate You're Vanilla" and "Is That Child Yours?" Although extremely important, today we began thinking about the cultural norms/traditions that we were raised with that we plan on sharing with our child. Things that are not at all Ethiopian, things that are so rooted in American tradition that most New Yorkers would never admit to partaking...

Enter American Football!

Both my husband and I were raised as tried-and-true Minnesota Vikings fans. The importance of this didn't really hit home until we moved away from our family in Minnesota and began our life in New York. All of a sudden missing THE Vikings game on Sunday was something that would only happen if one of us was traveling (and even then we would seek out a venue with NFL Sunday Ticket) or some other catastrophic event had happened that prevented us from being within satellite distance from the game. It became our guaranteed weekly connection to our family in the Mid-West. This year we gave my father 6 very coveted tickets to the Vikings vs Packers game and will be traveling to MN to join dad, my sisters, and brother-in-law to go to the game together. My dad tends to root for the Packers as often as the Vikings, but that's one of those topics we've learned not to bring up at the dinner table.

We're so excited to introduce our child to Ethiopian food, traditions, music, politics, history, etc... However, we also can't wait to wake up on the first Sunday morning during football season and dress our child in his/her first Vikings getup. Our child will look great sporting the purple and gold!

September 15, 2007

Ethiopian Food

We recently bought an Ethiopian cookbook (not easy to find - we found ours used from a woman online who calls herself "church lady") and have been visiting Ethiopian restaurants in the city. So far we've been to Awash in the East Village and Meskerem in West Midtown. We prefer Meskerem to Awash as their spreads (the original tapas) were much more flavorful and the injera was quite good. We've been told that Meskel in the East Village is fantastic so we'll be trying there next. One of the benefits of living partially in the city is that not only do we have access to any kind of ethnic cuisine, but there are multiple options within each. It seems like the Upper-Upper West Side (Amsterdam and the 120's) and the East Village are home to most of NYC's Ethiopian restaurants although there are several others scattered around the city as well.

Ethiopian food has always held a special place in our hearts, even before we began the adoption process. I was raised in a fairly conservative home in a family of five where family meals in the dining room were the norm and dinner was always one of seven options: Spaghetti with meat sauce, porcupines (meatballs with rice and tomato sauce), chicken and rice, tacos, beef stroganoff, pizza, or popcorn. My husband on the other hand was an only child and although has always had two consistent father figures in his life it was often just Mike & Mom for dinner. Not that his mother didn't value family dinners in the dining room, but the emphasis was placed more on dining out and experiencing new and different cuisines. So, needless to say when we started dating we both enjoyed each other's family's "dining norms" and he enjoyed large family Sunday dinners at my house while I enjoyed being taken to various ethnic restaurants with his family. One of the first was Ethiopian. Although I enjoyed the tapas-style spreads I immediately equated injera to an edible form of the ace bandage. Perhaps Ethiopian wasn't the best choice for my introduction to African cuisine, but to this day both of us recall that evening almost minute-by-minute as one of our most special. Little did we know why until we began the adoption process this year!

Since that day (now 11 years later) we've tried multiple other Ethiopian restaurants and I've grown to love the tapas style spreads and even enjoy the injera. My taste buds just needed some time to evolve. We have yet to cook a dish out of our Ethiopian cookbook, but that is definitely on the list of to-do's for the next week. They don't look to difficult, mostly onions, tomatoes, cumin, cardamom, ginger, and a protein. We can't wait to have our first try at preparing injara! Anyone out there have a particular recipe that you recommend?

September 14, 2007

Expecting from Ethiopia T-Shirts

I found this blog about a family who recently adopted from Ethiopia. They created these adorable t-shirts that are available for order with a portion of the proceeds going back to the children of Ethiopia.

Check it out!

Our Child Has A Guardian!

Yesterday we made a very important phone call. My sister Julie agreed to be the legal guardian to our first child! She lives in MN near the rest of our family. We're so excited that she is willing to take on this very important role and could not have possibly chosen a better person. She has a similar zest for life, values, and an amazing support network of family and friends. We'll need to create a Will formally stating this decision, and all of a sudden I'm feeling VERY grown up...

Although it is now looking realistic to have our dossier in Ethiopia by November I'm trying not to get my hopes up too high. With the exchange of paperwork anything can happen to cause a delay. That said, I really do think our dossier will be on Ethiopian soil by Thanksgiving and am so excited to be officially in the stage where we're just waiting for our referral.