Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We enjoyed a quiet holiday at home with Bonnie, Jesse’s mom, here to visit us. Obviously, Thanksgiving is not a Belgian holiday, so Liam went to school in the morning. It rained pretty much all day, so we laid low and just enjoyed ourselves at chez Ohlsson.

Not terribly exciting, eh? OK, here’s a short list of “Liamisms” to keep you entertained:

  • Bonnie brought Liam a snowglobe from the states. He loved it. It was glass, but he was as careful as a three year old could be with it. Note the past tense? Last night I was reading him a book and he was holding his precious snowglobe. He relaxed his grip, and SMASH!!! … let’s just say it didn’t survive it’s meeting with our tile floors. I called for Jesse to come clean it up, so I could keep Liam occupied and away from the water, glitter, and glass. When Jesse came into the room he said, “God Dammit.” How many guesses do you need to figure out Liam’s latest phrase? (luckily, after saying it four or five times that night, he seems to have forgotten… we’ll see)
  • Tonight while playing before bed, Jesse jokingly told Liam, “Don’t you give me any guff!” So Liam ran around the rest of the evening, shoving his tractor-of-the-moment in everyone’s faces and saying “GUFF! GUFF! GUFF!” Apparently, Guff is delivered by tractors.
  • He calls Bonnie “Dodder.” It makes me crack up every time I hear it.
  • We have a TomTom navigation system in the car. The ever-so-cool British voice “Kate” calmly directs us when we’re driving in unknown parts. It’s the best piece of technology we’ve ever bought. Anyway, Liam’s taken to parroting Kate. Today he told his dad to “take the exit, then take the freeway.”

There are a billion others, but that’s what occurs at the moment. Here are some pics of the lad.

We found a crank flashlight for Liam. Initially we had planned for this to be a Christmas present, but couldn’t resist giving it to him ahead of time. It’s great and he loves it! No batteries, just boy-powered. Well, Mom-and-Dad-powered for now, but he’s getting better about cranking it up every day. He insists on the lights being left off when we come downstairs in the morning, so he can light the way. And he takes it to bed. And hugs it as if it was a teddy bear.

Rolling on the floor, goofing off. But it also gives you a good look at his current favorite shirt. The bones glow in the dark.

Getting some loving in with “Dodder.”

Well, Carrie guessed right with door number three. We will be submitting our paperwork to Ukraine when the start accepting dossiers again. Hopefully that will be in January.

Ukraine was one of the countries we looked at when we initially broached the idea of adoption. However, at that time the country was closed to international adoption for restructuring of the system et al. We didn’t really consider them an option — back in August when we were preparing out home study ppwk, January seemed so very far away. We were so naive about the timeline international adoption REALLY involves! Now, however, the system in Ukraine seems to be working through its kinks, we’re pretty much through our paper chase, and the timing is coinciding nicely.

We’ve found a team in Ukraine to work with that seem honest, experienced, and knowledgeable about our particular situation — Americans adopting internationally while living overseas. You think your paperwork is difficult? Hah! Well, actually our ppwk isn’t any different, but we have some extra steps when it comes to the notarizing/apostilling process. Also additional background checks — we have to provide one from our last state of residence, and also one from the Belgian authorities. Hopefully we can arrange for everything to be notarized by one person. If we get the local pd check notarized by a Belgian notary, for example, we’ll have to figure out who does their apostilling, have that paperwork translated, probably get that notarized and apostilled, etc. I don’t know. Much easier to use one of the (free) notaries at the law center on base, then send all the ppwk to the DoS in D.C. for apostilling.

My mother-in-law is still here visiting, so the adoption frenzy has slowed a little. Next week I do hope to get our local pd clearances done and at least get our doctor’s visits scheduled — thought I could do the dr. stuff this week, completely forgetting about the holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving, by the way! Will write more when I can think and write with some kind of coherence…

Sorry for the absence of posts — and the absence of comments on other blogs. My mother-in-law is here visiting, and my time is spent catching up with her, watching Liam get to know his Grandma again, and doing research on translators….

More hints: we are doing an independent adoption. We’ll need a team of translators in country to assist us, but we do not need to use an agency. So we’re investigatig our options. I think we’ve narrowed it down to three possibilities. So hard to decide. One has stateside support, the other two do not. We’re really not all that concerned about stateside support, though. The requirements for the dossier are well-covered on the web, and we’re already nearly complete with the groundwork. Next comes the notarizing, and then the apostilling. Then it’s off to ******* for translation and submittal.

We’ve confirmed with our s/w that this is the country we want to adopt from, so she’s writing the home study to their specifications. We’re getting ready to do our medicals some time in the next week or so.

Good to be moving forward again!!

The Early Liam…

catches the worm! While playing outside the other day, Liam spotted a big, fat, juicy nightcrawler on the sidewalk. I tossed it back into the molehill from whence it came, and he probably spent five minutes watching fascinatedly (is that a word) as it dug its way back into the earth.

Grandma Bonnie is here visiting for about three weeks. It took Liam all of about two minutes to get over his shyness and to latch on to her as his very best friend ever. He spent a good part of her first full day here trying to run her over with his tractor, and then laughingly running away when she tried to get him back. Here’s a shot of them playing in the yard. Tell me: do you think he’s happy she’s here?

Examining an apple with Daddy. Not a great pic, but one of the few frontal shots of Liam in his new jacket, courtesy of Grandma Bonnie.

After some apple-picking, Liam went for a walk with his Grandma and Dad. I, Mom, was upstairs getting an hour of shut-eye, as Liam has been having some sleepless nights as of late… which means I’ve been having some sleepless nights as of late…. Turns out he was tired, too. Here he is taking a break on their walk.

Come back soon. With Grandma B here we’ve got three adults to man the camera, so no excuses for me not being able to get any shots!


Ahhhh, God, the dreaded nightmare that is international paperwork begins again. Here I thought I was being all efficient back in August when I ordered fresh copies of all our vital records. We didn’t need brand new copies for the home study, of course, but I was naturally so sure that we’d breeze right through this system and already have our dossier submitted to country X that I thought I’d get a jumpstart.


So…. today I ordered fresh copies of our marriage certificate and our criminal background checks from Hawaii (our last state of residence). When the arrive, I have to ship them back to Hawaii for authentication. I searched high and low for a document courier in HI, but couldn’t find one. No doubt the first person that reads this entry will say, too bad, I have a great contact….

Here’s what we need for our dossier:

1. Petition to adopt
2. Home study, along with a copy of the social worker’s license, agency license, and employment verification letter by the agency for the s/w
3. I-171H
4. Passport copies
5. Criminal background checks from Hawaii AND from Belgium
6. Employment verification letter for J; statement from me saying I don’t work outside the home
7. Medical forms for both of us
8. Letter of obligation – stating that we will register our child with the birth country’s embassy and that he will retain citizenship until he’s eighteen
9. Marriage certificate
10. Power of attorney
11. Appointment letter

Hmmmm… so, no birth certificates, no divorce decrees (which is a good thing, as Seoul has yet to send a copy of J’s decree), no name affidavits….

So, NOT Hungary, and NOT Guatemala. Wherever could it be??

You know, I really want to come up with some witty riddle about our country of choice, but I’m drawing a blank. I’ll give it some serious thought, because this dragging-it-out-stuff is getting annoying, even to me.

We think we’ve come to a decision. I won’t post it here, because as soon as we do, we seem to jinx ourselves, and something springs up waving big red warning flags in front of our faces to TURN AWAY. But we’re pretty sure we’ve made a decision. This decision, mind you, will most likely leave us in limbo for at least the better part of the year, but I think we’re content enough with this decision to stay the course.

I will tell you, we’ve pretty much definitely nearly certainly opted out of domestic adoption. We were ready to do it. I ordered books on the legal process. I spoke with lawyers. I contacted some top agencies experienced with working with people outside the states. But the facts remain thus: I am not comfortable with the emotional risks, and Jesse is not comfortable with the financial risks. I agree that the birthmom has the right to change her mind; I just can’t bear the idea of that happening to us, of having hoped and yearned for an infant, and invested so much emotion into that child, and having it denied. The fact that we could potentially lose the “living costs” we pay the birthmom really rankles with Jesse, and he finds the whole situation very untasteful. I have to say, the idea of the “competition” and “advertising” and “marketing” concerns both of us. On the one hand, how else are these women going to know we exist? On the other, who am I to tell them that I’m the right person to raise their child? Additionally, there are so many people waiting and wanting to adopt a newborn, so many people who haven’t been blessed with the experience themselves. We have.

So… we’re going international. Five points to the person that can guess what country we’ve decided on.

A Liam post

It’s turned into an almost proper winter in the last few days here. Its been getting colder and colder. Still no good frost yet, but cold enough in the mornings that a sweater for Liam isn’t quite enough. So take a look at my adorable little boy.

Yes, the coat is one size too big, but we can fit bulky sweaters under it, it’s Eddie Bauer, and it will last him a couple years.

decisions, decisions

This has been a rather busy week, adoption-wise. Let’s see, in the week leading up to our home study, the week I intended to spend cleaning and organizing et al, I spent:

  • playing tractors and firetrucks on the floor with my son,
  • dog-sitting for friends (bringing the house total up to three, which is two past the cut off
  • for being able to actually maintain order and cleanliness, apparently)
    being sicker than the proverbial dog

Luckily, my hen-pecked husband picked up the slack and did a very thorough general cleaning on the house on Sunday. In retrospect, everyone actually is right when they say you don’t have to sweat the housecleaning for the home study, but his work definitely gave me peace of mind for the big day.

On Monday morning, the first day of the h/s, I got an e-mail that marked, I think, the final demise of Hungary as our country of choice. We so wanted Hungary to work for us — we were willing to accept the long wait, the fact that we couldn’t adopt an infant or even a toddler, etc. But finally it seems that there are just too many roadblocks in the way for us to be able to pursue that route. Hungary has a six-week in country bonding period before you can proceed with your adoption. It used to be that both parents could go to Hungary and spend a week or two with the child, then one (the bread-winner, obviously) could return to the home country, perhaps returning for the finalization. That was the unofficial way things worked, but apparently that’s become quite an issue and the country has begun actively enforcing that both parents must stay the full time. We simply can’t do that.

In our home study we spoke at great length about our options. Surprisingly to me, the s/w spoke quite positively about our prospects for adopting domestically — newborn, that is. It’s yet another idea that had never occurred to us, but one that has great appeal. We have the same fears as everyone: that we’ll never get picked, that we’ll get scammed, that a mother will back out at the last minute, that she’ll ask for more contact than we’re comfortable with… What can I say? Right now we’re educating ourselves as much as possible and exploring the possibilities.

There’s so much to learn. If possible, domestic adoption is even more confusing that international. That’s because every state has their own rules. Do we use an agency? Or a lawyer? Do we do the legwork ourselves?

I’m setting us a deadline. By Thanksgiving I want to have made a firm decision.


The Isle of Canna is one of the Scottish Inner Hebrides. It is the westernmost of the Small Isles — 7kmX1.5km, 15 inhabitants kind of small. The isle was once owned by John Lorne Campbell; he gifted it to the National Trust for Scotland in 1981. Canna, thanks to Campbell and his wife, has one of the most detailed collections of Gaelic and Hebridean archives, and there is an ongoing project to catalog these priceless pieces. There is a primary school, a tea room, a post office, and not a lot else. It is beautiful in its starkness. I hesitate to use other people’s photography on our website, but I encourage you to go here to read about the island and view the incredible photos.

Why am I telling you this? Because in October of this year the NTS issued a call for families to move to Canna. It doesn’t matter that we’re not Scots, or UK citizens, or EU members. They are looking for two families to move to the island, bringing new blood and new skills to the tiny community. Click on the links below to find the details of the two houses they have available for incoming families.

House #1
House #2 (this is the house that’s ideal for a B&B)

Those of you that know us well have, I’m sure, heard us talk about doing just such a thing many times. It often feels to be more of a pipe dream. Immigration laws being what they are, under normal circumstances we could never move to a rural area (obviously our preference) and take up what work we could make/find. Under normal circumstances Jesse would have to receive a solid job offer, and his employer would have to get him a work permit, and this would almost certainly be in the heart of London or one of the other large cities. But these are not normal circumstances, and we can see just a glimmer of hope that our “pipe dream” might actually come true.

According to some sources, over four hundred applications have already bombarded the NTS. I wonder how many people have given real thought to what it would be to live so remotely. We have, many many times, and yet I doubt our imaginations can accurately predict what it would be like. Still, I think we’re better equipped to deal with such remoteness than most.

I’m not sure how likely it is that we would be chosen. Jesse has tons of skills that would surely be a great benefit to those on and around the island and involved with it. And I’m sure he could make work for himself to sustain us. We know that they are hoping for people with skills such as building, plumbing, automotive, etc. All of which Jesse has, but he’s not a professional per se in these fields. Tourism is becoming a significant source of income on the island, and they are hoping for someone willing to run one of the properties as a B&B. I find that prospect surprisingly appealing.

The fact that we have a young son is a bonus to us, but I read of plenty of other, larger, families applying, looking to escape the rat race. The funny thing is, we’re not looking to escape the rat race. We’re just looking to find our home.


I want to write a beautiful, sensitive post, exploring the issues of US vs. international adoption. But the thoughts in my head are too jumbled to to be able to organize into anything fit for public consumption. So here’s a (very) brief overview of my befuddlement.

We always thought that because we lived overseas, domestic adoption was out of the question for us. By domestic I mean “waiting child,” of “foster adopt,” or the dreaded “welfare system,” whatever term is politically correct today. Two days ago I learned this is not the case. There are some organizations and agencies that make it their life’s work to place waiting kids from the U.S. with Americans abroad.

Why am I just learning this now??!! When our international homestudy is less than a week a way? When we’ve already submitted CIS paperwork? When we’ve spent months agonizing over which country to choose?

There are a lot of compelling reasons to adopt a waiting child from the states, but that’s another, more organized post when my thoughts are more concrete. I can, however, delineate some of the “problems” for us as we examine this route.

I have no idea if the photo lists you find online are all the kids available, or if agencies have a special “in” and get advanced notice, or what. We have very rigid age requirements — our son Liam is nearly three, and we think it’s very important for his happiness to maintain birth order. Therefore, we’re not really open to a child over the age of three. This, as all things, is on a case by case basis, but it is our plan to adopt a younger child. I find from what I read that very few younger children are on the photo lists, and those that are usually have significant problems — most of which we don’t feel capable of taking on. Realistically, our children will grow up speaking English at home, but attending school and doing the rest of their lives in French. We don’t think that’s fair to expect of a child with learning disabilities. As for physical problems, we’re in a strange kind of no-man’s land here. Normally those kinds of things would be provided for by Belgium’s socialized medical system. But we’re expats living here, so we don’t qualify.

My heart aches for them. And for the older kids. That, too, would require a full post to explore.

Margaret, I’ve probably visited your site a hundred times in the last two days. That’s because yours is the only domestic adoption blog I know, and I’ve been looking for details. So much to learn, and I’d really like to have a firmer grasp of this before our home study on Monday/Tuesday. Although this is just off-the-cuff reasoning, chances are we would continue with our dossier for Hungary and get into their system. Because we’re asking for a younger child, we’ll probably be on their waiting list for a year or more. Concurrently, we could start searching for a stateside child.

Funny, the decision to adopt was a relatively easy one for us. Where is becoming a monumental issue.