Saturday, January 31, 2009

I root for losers

As I sit here, late on the eve of the Arizona Cardinals playing in the Super Bowl, I take a closer look at the teams that I am a fan of and realize that I only seem to root for losing teams and organizations. Take a look:

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals - mediocrity doesn't begin to describe what this franchise is mired in. The Bengals have not been relevant since 1988. They did make the playoffs in 2005, only to see Carson Palmer blow out his knee on the first pass play. I, like many others, bought into Marvin Lewis being the next coming of Sam Wyche. Hasn't happened. The Bengals and terrible. I wish Boomer would leave CBS and come back to backup Carson Palmer.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds - losing season after losing season. I do vividly remember being at Game 6 of the NLCS in 1990 and then waiting in line for hours upon hours to get tickets to Games 1 and 2 of the World Series. My brother Doug and I waited in a line that wrapped all the way around Riverfront Stadium. Which would have been fine if we had had enough money to purchase 2 tickets to each of the first two games when we reached the ticket office. We didn't. But out of the goodness of someone behind us's heart, we were given the money to purchase the tickets. The Reds went onto win the World Series in a sweep of the previously thought unbeatable Oakland A's. Thanks the person behind us, he truly paid it forward.

NBA: Don't care.

College basketball: Indiana University. If we wipe the Mike Davis era out of our heads, which we all should do, they haven't been to a Final Four since 1992. That is sad. One of the greatest and most storied programs in all of the land has been marred by such people as Miles Brand and most recently Kelvin Sampson. I am a believer that Tom Crean can bring the program back to prominence. It will take a couple of years.

College football: Indiana University. Enough said.

The one thing that I have going for me right now is that golf is my favorite sport and I live at the same time as Tiger Woods. The things he can do, and does, on the golf course makes us up for the disappointments of the above mentioned teams.

Tiger, if you are reading this, thank you.

My hope remains that if the Cardinals can do the unthinkable and make it to the Super Bowl, than so can the Bengals. If the D-Rays can make it the World Series, than so can the Reds. If George Mason can make it to the Final Four, than so can the Hoosiers. Here's to hoping that one of those things happens again in my lifetime.

Against my wishes, but with my better judgement, Lleyton will be a fan of the Indianapolis Colts, the Butler Bulldogs, and the Florence Freedom.

Sacrifices made in the name of adoption

As I sit here typing this, many of my best friends undoubtedly are in the midst of a heated game of Sink the Bismark at Nick's in Bloomington.

After leaving Nick's I am sure they will venture across the street to Upstairs for an AMF or two and then probably head up to Sports or the Bird in an attempt to relive the many nights spent in those establishments years ago in our heyday.

Sara and I certainly wish that we were there with them, but saving up for an adoption trumps spending the night in Bloomington. This isn't the first time in the past few months we have had to sacrifice hanging out with friends in the name of saving money. Other notable instances, no annual new years trip to Kiawah, no annual weekend trip to Knoxville to join the Vol Navy, no new years trip to Big Canoe, no upcoming trip to Chicago for St. Patricks Day, and I am sure there will be more.

Am I jealous of them being there right now and not me? Yes, but that jealousy has been far outweighed by the enjoyment that I had this evening grocery shopping for Super Bowl items with Lleyton, with the enjoyment of the impromptu dance party that we had listening to African music, and with the enjoyment that is certainly going to be had tomorrow watching the Super Bowl with my little man and Sara.

Hopefully this time next year our dance parties and Super Bowl party will be even bigger. Details on the size of the party to be determined...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Dossier complete!

I am happy to announce that our dossier has been completed. We recieved the last two documents that we were waiting on in the mail yesterday. After venturing to Indianapolis to get the Great Seal of the State of Indiana on our documents, they we will be ready to make the trip around the world. First stop, Washington D.C., last stop, Ethiopia.

More details to come.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Top Gun

As it turns out, we ended up making a whirlwind trip down to Florida this past weekend. After Lleyton fended off the croup, we jumped in the car and headed south. Luckily, we had a place to stay in Atlanta on Friday night, so we didn't have to make the whole drive at one time. Once arriving in Florida we settled in for a bit and then headed over to Rob's naval base. Lleyton really seemed quite comfortable behind the controls of one of the planes. I think he is leaning toward being a pilot later in life.

It was nice to get down to Florida and meet little Nolan and see Rob and Rachel and Brian and Kim also made the trip down from frigid Chicago. We relaxed on Saturday night, drank a few Blue Moons, played a little Wii, and ate like kings and queens (thanks to Rob's much better than average domestic skills). The problem came when Lleyton's sickness came back on Saturday night into Sunday morning. The poor guy had a terrible cough combined with a fever and just wasn't feeling well. Under normail circumstances, we wouldn't have jumped back into the car, less than 24 hours since we arrived, but in this instance we did so b/c we didn't want to infect Nolan with any kind of illness. He is unscathed thus far in his short life and I didn't want to be the one to change that.

So we took off around noon on Sunday and headed back towards Atlanta. After a brief stop in Montgomery to eat and pick up some Yuengling, and another stop in Auburn to acquire a humidifier for Lleyton, we arrived back in Atlanta in time for the Steelers/Ravens titanic struggle. So thanks to Kevin and Sandi for hosting us for two nights this weekend, their accomadations were much appreciated.

I am happy to report that Lleyton is feeling better now. But the Dreaded Sign was posted on the door of his room yesterday at daycare. There has been a case of Strep Throat in his room, so we are preparing for the worst.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Adoption updates

Sara and I had our appointment this morning for our fingerprints. One of the many steps we have to go through before the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) says that we are allowed to bring an adopted child home from another country. My fingerprints came out great. Sara, on the other hand, didn't have such luck. The lady taking her fingerprints scolded her for not using lotion and said that her fingerprints may have to be redone at a later date if they weren't deemed acceptable.

Our home study has been completed, so we are just waiting to receive the original so that we can take it to be apostilled in Frankfort. Our dossier is almost completed, we have to update one form and we are waiting on two more forms from our agency, then I will be able to take it to Indianapolis to get the Great Seal. After that, we can send it down the road to Washington and on to Ethiopia.

We were sent a video of a waiting child in Ethiopia. Older children (3+ years old) who are up for adoption are deemed to be "waiting children." Sara and I requested more information on one of these children. The video gave us a much better insight into what life is like in the remote villages of Ethiopia.

This particular little boy we were looking at was about 5 years old, they really don't know how old most of the children are b/c there is not birth certificate when they are born in these remote places. He is cute as a button. We aren't sure which direction we are going to go with his adoption regarding age. At first, we were only considering infants, but now we are also considering waiting children. More details to come...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

January 15, 2008

One year ago today, on a very dark, cold night, we arrived at the airport in Samara to finally become a family. Our flight had left Moscow, bound for Samara, sometime around 9 or 10pm on the 14th, and we arrived in Samara sometime just after midnight if my memory serves me correctly. We had spent the day on the 14th sightseeing in Moscow with the other family that we traveled with each trip. Here is Sara enjoying a cup of "hot chocolate" during our visit to Red Square. It turns out the "hot chocolate" is simply melted chocolate in a cup.

Upon arriving in Samara, we were prepared to drive into the city (the airport was about 30-45 minutes outside of the city, depending upon which driver picked us up) and check into the hotel. We were scheduled to spend the entire day of the 15th running around Samara doing paperwork that would allow us to pick up the children on the 16th and head back to Moscow. To our surprise, most of the paperwork had been completed already, and all we had to do was make a couple of stops in the morning and then we would be off to the orphanage to pick up Lleyton. Honestly, nothing against Lleyton of course, but I was really looking forward to one last day in the hotel and getting plenty of rest before finally picking up our little buddy and starting our lives together. Upon getting the news that we were getting him a day early we scurried to try to get prepared for him, we had the hotel put a crib in the room, we unpacked all of the clothes that we wanted him to wear when we picked him up from the orphanage, we made up his first bottles that we would feed him so that they would be ready at the hotel when we arrived back. Needless to say, it was a bit of a whirlwind day.

After joining the other family for breakfast, we jumped into a couple of cars and were driven around town to make our mandatory stops. Following those stops, we were off to our final visit to the orphanage. As I stated in an email that I sent to family and friends that day after arriving back to the hotel with our little man, as happy as we were to be finally getting to leave the orphanage with him, I also had a feeling of sadness. The orphanage workers had cared for this little boy in his times of greatest need, they nurtured him, they raised him to be the beautiful little boy that he had become over the previous 13 months, and now they had to say goodbye to him. I am sure that they love seeing these children, whose futures are otherwise in question, leave the orphanage en route to a better life, but that must be accompanied by a feeling of sadness to see them leave.

Prior to departing the orphanage, we were given a brief tour of the children's room. During previous trips, we weren't allowed to see any of the rooms other than the one that we met with him in each time. It was nice to see where he had been living. There was a large playroom with a few children scattered about playing. Then there was the bedroom. This room was full of cribs, probably 15 or so. One right after anther. Each indistinguishable from the previous. I have a feeling that this is the room that the children spent the majority of their time in. It was a sad sight, but I had prepared myself for it being worst that it actually was.

Following our tour of the children's room, we were shown a new room that they were about to open that could accommodate additional children. Both Sara and I and the other family that we traveled with had made a donation to the orphanage on our previous trip, so the orphanage director was eager to show us the curtains that they had purchased with the money that we had given them. It was cool to see how proud the director seemed to be of the new room.

We briefly played with the kids before bundling them up in their snowsuits and preparing to make our exit. The orphanage workers stood in the hallway and said goodbye to both of the little boys as we were leaving. And we were off. Off to begin a new life together as a family. Surreal to say the least.

Lleyton fell asleep on Sara's lap on the way to the hotel. We had spent the previous two trips really getting to know each other (Sara and I and Lleyton). So he seemed very comfortable to be leaving with us and heading into an unknown world to him.

It wouldn't be an understatement to say that January 15, 2008 was the day our lives changed forever...for the better.

First official family picture

Asleep in the car after leaving the orphanage

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Our poor little buddy has come down with Croup. I had no idea what that was until I saw the Dreaded Sign on the door of his classroom at daycare. If any child in the room comes down with an illness, they post the Dreaded Sign on the door. This sign is just a white sheet of paper, but the writing is always in bold red ink and it outlines what illness has been present in the room and how many cases there have been. The sign itself doesn't sound bad enough to warrant the name Dreaded Sign, I know, but the thing of it is, every time there is a sign posted, Lleyton ends up with that particular illness (examples: Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease, Pink Eye). Thus, I have named the sheet of paper the Dreaded Sign because we are guaranteed to have a sick little buddy on our hands if the sign is on the door. The biggest problem with this particular illness is that it is contagious. We have been looking forward to our trip to Florida this weekend to see Rob and Rachel and meet Nolan, but if Lleyton doesn't get better we are going to have to postpone because we don't want spread this illness to Nolan. So we are aggressively treating the illness with a humidifier and Children's Tylenol. Cross your fingers that our little man gets better in just a couple of days and we can still make the trip down. Rob purchased a small keg of Blue Moon for our visit and it would pain me greatly not to be able to help him drink it.

UPDATE - 1/15/09

Not only did the crossing of my fingers not help to heal Lleyton quickly enough for us to depart for Florida this afternoon, but it just so happens that Sara has caught the illness now as well. Lleyton's doctor confirmed for us yesterday that it was, in fact, croup. She put him on a steroid to try to knock it out and she was hopeful he would kick it in a day or so. He isn't any better today than he was yesterday, but maybe with another day away from school/daycare he will be able to rest and get better. Sara is staying home from work today as well, in an attempt to get healthy again.

The strange part of this is that the last time we were to visit Rob and Rachel we were unable to make that trip as well because of a last second plan change. So I am hoping that if we can't make it this weekend to their house that we will be invited again. We are dying to meet the newest addition to the group, Nolan.

*For those that are unfamiliar with the Snuggie (The Blanket with Arms), that is what I am wearing in the picture above. On occasion, infomercials get the best of me.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hurry up and wait

That would be the motto of adooption if there were one. We scurry around to get our documents for our dossier, or our homestudy, or our agency application taken care of as quickly as possible only to find out that we aren't everyones highest priority. We found that out during the process of adopting Lleyton as well. It's good to know that it hasn't changed. If we aren't waiting on a signature from a doctor's office, we are waiting on a signature from an employer. If we aren't waiting on a signature from an employer, we are waiting for marriage certificate to arrive in the mail. If we aren't waiting for a marriage certificate, we are waiting for our fingerprint appointment to be set. Our goal is to complete the paperwork part of the adoption as quickly as possible so that we can be officially be put on the waiting list of families longing to adopt an Ethiopian child. Theoretically, the quicker you get on that list, the quicker you get a referral for a child.

That being said, we have been doing well getting all of the paperwork together that we can. We are two signatures short of having our homestudy complete. We are only a couple of docuements short of having our dossier complete as well. After completing the dossier, we will have to take it to Indianapolis to the Secretary of State, so that we can get the Great Seal of Indiana. From my understanding, that means that the Secretary of State is verifying the authenticity of the documents. After that step, the papers are off to Washington DC so that the State Department can take a look at them and finally, they will make a stop at the Ethiopian Embassy in DC. Sounds pretty complicated, but I think/hope it is going to be easier than it sounds.

We did take a break from our seemingly endless paperchase this weekend to make a very quick trip to Indianapolis on Sunday. Kids First, our adoption agency for Lleyton, put on their first annual Russian New Years Party. We weren't all that interested in the party itself, b/c Lleyton can't quite grasp that he is from Russia yet. We were more interested in getting him back together with one of his old orphanage buddies. One of his "roommates" from Baby House #2 in Samara, now happens to live outside of Indianapolis. This little guy, Roman, is just a couple of days older than Lleyton, so they probably got to spend some real quality time with each other during the first 13 months of their little lives.

Upon arriving at the party, the two boys saw each other and engaged in a bit of a staredown, almost as if they were saying to each other, "I recognize you." It was very cool. Lleyton did what Lleyton does, run like wild throughout the ballroom without regard to anyone or anything that may be around him, while little Roman sat very politely on his parents' laps. But we did corral Lleyton just long enough to get a few pictures with his old buddy. Here is one of the pictures...

It was really nice getting to see Roman and his family again. We think it is very cool to have one of Lleyton's buddies from Russia so close.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Christmas 2008

Christmas 2008 will always be the most memorable for us because it was our first Christmas together as a family. Last year, we were officially a family, it just happened that Lleyton lived in Russia and we lived in Kentucky.

With this being our first Christmas together, we made sure that we enjoyed each moment. It was a bit of a whirlwind for a few days, as we did the Ritzmann Family Christmas in Indianapolis on December 19th and 20th, and we did the McMain Family Christmas on Sunday, December 21st and Christmas Eve, both in Kokomo. Lleyton had a blast during each celebration. He loves playing with of his cousins anyway, but if you mix in showering him with gifts he seems to love that even more.

After the festivities in Kokomo on Christmas Eve, we hurried home so that we could begin our newest family traditions of decorating cookies for Santa, Lleyton opening up brand new Christmas pajamas, and setting our cookies and milk for Santa and his reindeer. Although our little man didn't really grasp this concept, Sara and I really enjoyed starting up our own traditions.

Upon waking up on Christmas morning, we informed Lleyton that from the looks of the living room, Santa was pretty happy with his behavior over the past year. We spent almost 3 hours opening up gifts, playing with our new toys, and eating our Christmas breakfast (overnight french toast casserole - delicious).

After laying his head down for a nap, Lleyton awoke to find that Grammy and Pop and Emily and Andy had come over to enjoy the feast that Sara and I (mostly Sara) had made for our first Christmas with our little man. Although he didn't eat much of the feast, I am sure he thought it was quite delicious. His mother is quite the cook.

Here are some pictures of the big festivities...

Grandfather Frost

Russian tradition is that Grandfather Frost visits each home on New Years Eve to bring the children presents. Well, it just so happens that Grandfather Frost came across our address and showed up at the house with a few gifts for Lleyton. He must have been one heckuva good boy this year b/c he was visited by both Santa Claus and Grandfather Frost. Here are a couple of pictures of our little man opening up his presents from Grandfather Frost...

Lleyton doesn't know it yet but he is going to get the opportunity to meet Grandfather Frost this weekend. Kids First, our adoption agency for Lleyton, is putting on the 1st Annual Russian New Year Party in Indianapolis and we are going to be there with bells on. Lleyton is even going to have a chance to meet up with one of his old friends from Russia that he used to live with in the orphanage. It should be fun!

Application submitted

After frantically compiling all kinds of information for our dossier and Gladney application and homestudy, we decided to switch agencies. Nothing against Gladney, we were just very impressed with Celebrate Children International. The director of the agency reminds us quite a bit of the director of our agency we used for Lleyton's adoption, Kids First, and that is a good thing.

CCI's office is located in Florida, but they have assisted in many adoptions for families living in Kentucky. After submitting our application today, we now have to try to wrap up all of the documents for our dossier. Compared to all of the documents that were required by Russia, the list for Ethiopia seems quite short. I am sure there could be a bump in the road here or there, but as of now, we are really enjoying the way Ethiopia operates.

We met with our homestudy provider on Friday afternoon and have a follow up meeting scheduled for this coming Friday. Hopefully the homestudy can be written and submitted to INS within the next week. After that, the INS will take a look at it and (hopefully) give us their blessing to bring a baby into our lives.

More updates to come as we progress.