A Day in Des Moines

It has been a long and busy week for us in the adoption department … and somehow the week is not over??  Through the weekend and early part of this week, we were in grant application insanity mode.  We had about 5-6 grant applications that we had been working on for weeks and weeks finally to the point of needing finishing touches, and were working like mad to get them wrapped up and in the mail.  Guys.  Please be praying for our grant application process.  If you have been checking the progress bar over on the left side of the page, you’ll see that we are just shy of $10,000!  This is absolutely amazing in so many ways, but still leaves us with about $15,000 to go.  We desperately need some of these grant applications to pull through.

Today was a busy and exciting day in and of itself, because we spent the whole day in Des Moines – the capital city which is almost exactly two hours away.  The phase our adoption is in right now is the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services) phase, which requires a trip to the capital to be fingerprinted.  To be fingerprinted, you first have to send an application and then wait to receive an appointment notice in the mail, which would contain an date and time that we must come for our appointment.  The good news is that our notices came several weeks earlier than expected.   The bad news was that because we had no say whatsoever in the scheduling of it, our appointment was made for right smack in the middle of the day.  For a four-hour round trip, this meant us both taking a day off of work.

Of course, we started the day with a little tradition of ours called Adoption Donuts, which we have been doing since the very beginning.

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For each next step we take in our adoption, we celebrate with Adoption Donuts.  Each completed step is exciting, but can also be quite stressful.  Adoption Donuts is the small moment we take to mutually celebrate reaching another milestone and to receive a nice sugar rush to settle the nerves.  Plus, we get to eat donuts.  So, there’s that.

At that start of our busy week, we got this book.

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It is fantastic so far, and has already given us so much to think about in terms of the challenges associated with attachment and the steps we can take to prepare for the process.  On the drive to Des Moines, we had a grand ol’ time reading it and dreaming together about the days to come, and the joys and challenges they will bring.

Before we left, we put the word out on Facebook that we were heading to Des Moines and were wondering if anyone had suggestions of fun things to do.  We planned to get there extra early (because you don’t drive two hours for a Highly Important Appointment and risk being late) as well as spend the afternoon after our appointment just partying downtown and enjoying our unexpected day off together.  By far, the most highly recommended stop we were told to make was to a very unique burger joint called Zombie Burger.

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Truth:  I am so NOT into the whole zombie thing.  I know, I know.  I probably just offended a good number of you, but I just can’t get into it.  I’ve walked in on Alex watching The Walking Dead before and found it half appalling and half ridiculous.   But guys.  Zombies or not, that was probably one of the single greatest burgers I have ever had.  Next time you are in Des Moines, go there.  And get the garlic bacon blue cheese fries.

From there it was appointment time.  It was in one of those intimidating governmental buildings where you have to take off your cute boots and walk around with your inside-out, mismatched socks pulled up over your pant legs while a security guy searches your purse.  Super flattering.

Around the time we were walking in the building and double-checking we had everything with us, we suddenly hit a giant moment of panic.  Apparently, in my excitement over receiving our appointment notice in the mail way early, I somehow totally missed the fact that we EACH received appointment notices in the mail.  We only sent one application, so I guess I assumed we only received one notice, and somehow managed to save only Alex’s.  The problem was that in order to have our fingerprinting appointing (read: the entire reason we just drove two hours) we must EACH have our notice.  It said so right there on the page.


The most alarming part was that not only did I not have my notice with me, I couldn’t even think where it might be in the house.  Like I said, I thought we only received one, so I only put one in our box of adoption paperwork.  Fully expecting to go on in only to be told that I would have to wait for a new appointment notice and come back then, we went in, full of dread.  The place is NOT known for it’s flexibility or it’s tolerance of rule-breaking.  And to be honest, I wasn’t even going to be surprised.  I have learned that nearly everything in adoption has to be done twice, because the first time is always wrong.  But I just couldn’t bear to think that a silly mistake would delay things weeks more.

We were 30 minutes early for our appointment, and as Alex handed his notice to the security guard, I was already trying to formulate my pleas to still be allowed to complete my appointment.  The guard stamped Alex’s notice and gave him paperwork to fill out, and then peered over at me.  As soon as I nervously opened my mouth to admit my mistake and beg for mercy, I could tell immediately that this guy was used to hearing every excuse in the book, and was running low on patience.

I think all I got out was a jumbled sentence about how I didn’t realize we each got a notice in mail when I saw a kind-looking older women hurriedly coming over from the other side of the room.

“Did you forget your notice?”  She said, stepping around the guard.  I couldn’t tell if this was going to be good or bad.

“Yes … ” I admitted, sheepishly.

The women looked around her, almost like she wanted to make sure no one was watching.  “Let me see your ID,” she said, quietly.  “I can just look up your notice and print you a new one.”

“Please …” I said, desperately.  “We’re adopting.  We live all the way in Cedar Rapids …”  But she was already taking my ID and scurrying away, and I realized I didn’t even need my pleas.

“Give her the paperwork,” she called over her shoulder to the guard as she walked to another room.  The guard shrugged, handed me a clipboard, and went back to watching the soap opera playing on the corner TV.  I sank down into a waiting room chair, completely amazed.  This was not at all what I was expecting from what I thought would be a strict, stuffy, governmental office.

Thank you, Lord, for kind people like her.

Within no time, we had both been fingerprinted by this cool, fingerprint-scanning machine and were sent on our way.  Just like that, another big step was behind us – one that could have been dragged out for another month if our appointment had been scheduled during someone else’s shift.

The rest of the day was just pure, relaxing fun – thanks in large part to the suggestions of others.  We wandered around a botanical garden and sat under palm trees to review what we were missing in our ASL class.  It was 60+ degrees outside, so we strolled along the streets of the East Village, visiting little shops and chatting with a barista over coffee at a local shop.  We were the only people visiting the Iowa Historical Museum in the middle of a Thursday afternoon, so we had the place to ourselves as we walked through exhibits about Iowa’s wildlife and involvement in the Civil War.  We cruised around town with windows down and sunglasses on, enjoying the long-awaited Spring weather.  A perfect day.

Tomorrow, it will be time to learn about the next step in the process, because as usual, we only understand the step we are currently on.  But for now, we relax and go to bed thanking God for this day.


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