Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Good questions to ask your adopted child's foster parents?

Now here is a great post, one that I did not think of until we got back to the United States. In Poland, most of the orphaned children are in foster care or in an orphanage. I wished we had these typed up to ask the foster parents because with all of the excitement of meeting your child(ren), you will forget to do the important stuff, like asking questions about your child to the people who had been caring for them.

Here is a list of questions that we were commonly asked by doctors, nurses, and us, as parents, that I wished we had known a little more about:
  • How does he or she do in school? Does he like school?
  • Is the child in school? If not, why?
  • What's their daily activities/schedule/routines?
  • Do they have any close friends?
  • What is his or her favorite thing to do?
  • Do you have his or her medical blue book? (Everyone is Poland has one. This blue book documents every hospital, doctor visit, immunization, etc...) If no blue book, do you have their immunization record?
  • Have they ever been to the dentist? Pediatrician for a check up?
  • What is going to the doctor like? Scary? Not so scary?
  • What is the relationship like between the foster siblings and your child?
  • Is he or she excited about being adopted?
  • How long has he or she known about being adopted?
  • Do you know anything about the birth parents?
  • Do you know of any prenatal history?
  • What is his or her favorite foods? How is their eating?
  • What is their favorite toys or games or movies?
  • How is his or her sleeping?
  • Can I look in his or her room? 
  • Can I take pictures of their room? Of the foster parents? Foster siblings?
  • What is it like parenting this child?
  • What's the child's personality (if older child)? 
  • What does the child struggle with (school, homework, friends, eating, etc...)?
  • What forms of discipline do you use? What works?
  • Can we have your address to send updates on this child?
  • How does the child act when he or she is angry? (hits, cries, destructive, nothing)
  • Any behavior concerns that we should be aware of?
  • Does the child have any special needs? (Attending therapies?)
  • How does the child interact with his/her foster sibling or others (at school, in the home, neighborhood)?
  • What makes the child happy?
  • What makes the child unhappy?
  • Will the child fall asleep in your arms?
  • Does the child like to be held?
  • Does the child have any special fears? (Smalls was terrified of red eyes!)
  • Any known abuse? If so, how was the child abused?
  • Does he or she like to be bathed?
  • Is he potty trained? For how long?
  • Has the child bonded with a particular caretaker? If so, what is that relationship like?
  • Do you have any questions for us?

Do you have a great question that is not on the list? Please post your questions in the comment section below. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Why don't you talk (frequently) about your daughter on your blog? Can you post some pictures of her?

These are great questions. I know that it can be frustrating to read a great story in a book only to find out that the last 10 pages are missing and you are left to wonder how it ended. Well my blog is kind of like that, except that you get to ask the author all the questions you may have.

Why do you not talk about your daughter on your blog?

Before we adopted our daughter, we decided to not post any information about her-not even pictures. We have many reasons for this decision. Because of the digital age that we live in, we thought it best to protect her privacy as much as we can. Our daughter's story is just that-her story. We decided to not publicly share details of her story with other people we do not trust. We want her to decide to when to share her story to the public. We don't mind answering general questions about her (like what's it like to adopt an older child, was it hard to communicate to her, what was her living situation like in Poland, etc...). And we hope to post some of these questions on our FAQ page. If you have questions regarding our daughter or adopting (internationally, older child, from Poland, etc...), please email me or leave a comment with your email address and I would love answer any questions that you may have. We do want to be a resource for those considering adopting older children. We have a huge heart for them and would like to share it with you.

Can you post some pictures of her?

Unfortunately no. We want to protect the privacy of our daughter as much as we can. We are unsure of the digital future that will hold for our daughter. We do not know the future of our daughter and we do not want to jeopardize any opportunities, employment, etc... because we posted about her issues, disabilities, and what day to day life is like with her. For the most part she is a normal adopted child who actually looks like her mom and dad.

If you do have any questions about her or all of the above please email me at  sarai.barnett at gmail dot com.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What did you wear to adoption court (in Poland)?

Great question! We didn't know either until we were in court. We heard of stories of women only wearing skirts or dresses and panty hose, don't cross your legs ladies!, and other random cultural do's and don'ts.

Well, I am so glad to say that most of what we heard was not true about court. Wes wore a suit and I wore dress pants, button-up shirt, and a blazer (business suit). We did not choose loud colors--muted greys and blacks. The judges and the prosecutor even wore dress pants and crossed their legs. Make sure you pick something comfortable to wear because you never know how long court might be, except don't wear jeans and a t-shirt-they may not take you seriously.

Let's talk about shoes.

Girls, please do not wear heels. Your feet will hate you for the rest of your life. Poland's side walks and roads are made of cobblestone. Click here for a picture. In addition to the cobblestone, you will also stand in front of the judges during court while they ask you questions. I don't know exactly how long they will make you stand in front of court (it was 2 1/2 hours for us), but let's play it safe. Wear ballet flats or comfortable, but nice loafers.

Wes wore his black dress shoes with his suit. Guys, are always so easy to dress!

I did not wear loud jewelry in court. I chose simple earrings and my wedding band. That's it. I chose to be simple and comfortable.

I would not recommend wearing jeans, even dark wash. Poland is a traditional country and you want to look professional because, after all, you are asking to take one of their children to another country to live for forever.

Our translators were very pleased that we chose to wear business suits for court. We looked very professional and we were also as comfortable as we could be.

After court, I immediately changed into my t-shirt, jeans and Toms for the long, 6 hour car ride home.

My Little Black Notebook (that saved my brain)

One thing that I am so glad that I brought with me to Poland is a notebook. I know it sounds so simple but it literally saved my brain and gave me piece of mind during our in country stay.  I used this notebook almost every day while we were in Poland.

Let me explain about this amazing notebook. Before we left I took an old notebook and started taping and writing down all kinds of information I thought we would need while in country-you just never know if you will have internet access 24/7. Some of the information included U.S. Embassy contact information, important phone numbers of people in Poland, addresses of where we were staying, and other information while in country that I needed to remember, but I knew I would forget. A full list of what we put in our notebook is down below.  If someone told me to remember this alarm code or a phone number, I wrote it down and forgot all about it until I needed it. I know this sounds kind of silly but this notebook let my mind worry about other things, i.e. our adopted child. And all of our important information was in one place and not on bunches of pieces of paper that we scrambled around to find to write that important something on.

If you are planning to adopt overseas, I would highly recommend you to invest in a Composition notebook (the ones that have the metric conversion charts in the back). You can find one at the dollar store or at Walmart for a $1 or so. The Composition notebooks can easily fit into a large purse or a backpack. We printed out most of our information and taped it to the pages of the notebook.

Here is a list of what we put in our notebook:
(You can click on some of the items to find links.)

Before we left for our trip:

While we were in country:
  • Addresses of where we were staying
  • Alarm codes for our apt and apt building
  • Addresses of people we want to stay in contact with in the future
  • Phone numbers of adoption facilitators
  • Names of the local adoption coordinator in our child’s region, the Judge, and other important people (foreign names are harder to remember, especially if you meet a lot of important people)
  • The names of the stuffed animals that our adopted child has (once again, foreign names are harder to remember)
  • Details of our trip that we want to remember and show our adopted child one day

During our trip we recorded fun things we did, special places we visited (taped ticket stubs, etc...) and wrote down memories of what happened that we want our daughter to know when she is older. It became a mini scrap book by the end of our trip. I hope to tape some pictures on the remaining pages with captions in the next coming months.

And guess what? Our mini scrap book only cost a $1! Can't beat that. I had originally envisioned getting a really nice scrap book and making it really pretty for her, but this is a much easier and cheaper way of doing it. I don't have to spend hours on end later-on trying to make it. Yea, another win! win! win!

Having this notebook was a great idea!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

What was the U.S. Embassy like? Was the Visa interview difficult? How long does it take to get a visa?

What was the U.S. Embassy like?
The staff at the embassy is very accommodating to U.S. citizens and they are very helpful. They answered all of our questions and made us feel like first priority. Like any U.S. governmental office, you have to go through a screening process before you can go to the waiting room for your visa interview appointment. It is a typical screening of all of the your bags going through the X-ray machine and you walking through the metal detector. But be careful about your bag size! If your bag is too big you will not be allowed in--of course, I did not know that and I'm a fan of medium sized purses and I was not allowed in with it. The waiting room was filled with lots of chairs and a play area for children. The play area is for smaller children (2-6), but older children could find something to play with if they wanted. Once you enter into the waiting room, you go to a specific window that the front desk has told you to go. The lady at that window will take your information and give you a number and then you wait for your number to be called for the interview.
*All you need to take with you to the U.S. Embassy is your passports (including your adopted child's) and nothing else.

What was the visa interview like? Was it difficult?
The visa interview was super easy. No hard questions at all were asked. We had a lady conduct our interview and she was super friendly and helpful. It did not feel like an interview at all. It was really informal. We presented her with our passports and she had the paperwork that we had previously submitted. She asked us a couple of questions, not a lot. The interview took about 10 minutes.

Here are some questions she asked us:
How long have you been in Poland?
Which adoption agency did you use?
How did you like your stay in Poland?

And that's it! You are able to go home and wait for the embassy to process your application.

How long does it take to get a visa issued?
It usually takes 1 business day for them to issue your visa. Check their website for holidays and days off. Because you are in another country the embassy is closed on all major U.S. holidays and Polish holidays.

*We had to wait an extra day because we had the incorrect type of birth certificate. The embassy needs a full birth certificate, not the short one. So when you are getting your child's new birth certificate with new names and such, be sure to get a full one for the embassy. 

Click here for U.S. Embassy in Poland contact information.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Things to do in Warsaw: Near the U.S. Embassy

Ok, so this could possibly be my last post about things to do in Poland for awhile. We are now home with our daughter and trying to get a since of normalcy.

While we were in Warsaw at the U.S. Embassy for our visa interview, we had a lot of down time between the visa interview and when they issued the visa to us. What were we to do? We didn't have anything planned and did not look up anything in the area beforehand. So we went exploring and this is what we found: Near the U.S. Embassy there is a coffee shop called Green Cafe Nero (Green Cafe) with free wifi and excellent coffee (and bathrooms!). They speak excellent English here and it is literally a half a block away from the embassy. If you get a chance to visit, try the Charlotte drink-it's so good. Also in the area is a KFC- a taste of home after being in Poland for 2 months. The KFC has public bathrooms and they speak English. Another fun place to go nearby the embassy is a park with a big playground, sand boxes, beautiful gazebos, and a large area to let your kids go and run.

We spent about 6 hours doing all of the above. I'm sure there are more stuff we could have seen or done in the area, but hanging out in the park was relaxing and free, especially since our minds were getting ready to get on an airplane with our newly adopted child.

Have you had to kill some time near the U.S. Embassy? What did you do while you waited?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What did you pack for your adoption trip?

Here is a list (random order) of things we packed for our trip. We had 2 checked bags and 2 carry-ons (per person) going to Poland. Most of our clothes were packed in our carry on.

Black notebook  (that saved our brains!)
Energy bars and other snacks (goldfish, fruit snacks, candy)
Dry Soup mixes (easy meal -just add boiling water)
2 rolls of toilet paper
Ziplock bags
5 travel size laundry detergent packets
Crystal light packets and coffee singles
3 water bottles
2 Adapters/Converters
Couple of travel size bottles of shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and body washes
Basic toiletries to start off with (you can buy almost any toiletry that you would need in Poland)
Hair dryer/ straightner (mine did not blow up)
Duck tape
Scissors, clear tape, couple of pens and pencils, and a notebook
Rain jackets and umbrella
Reusable shopping bags (for groceries and I’m so glad I brought these)
Plastic bucket with top (to put things that we don’t want to break or get squished to and from our trip)
Plastic jar of peanut butter (instant and easy meal on the go)
Copy of “Where there is no doctor”
Clothes for 1 week and 1 pair of tennis shoes and flip flops per person
Court clothes and shoes
3 Towels and 2 hand towels
3 neck pillows (for the airplane)
2 Blankets
Laptop, mp3 player, and tablet
International Cellphone (we could purchase phone cards while in Poland)
Playing cards and other card games
Gifts from our hometown for people (adoption coordinator, etc..) that we would meet and build a relationship with (I found our small gifts at Walgreens)

Here are some things we brought for our daughter:
We did not bring a lot of toys to Poland because it either wouldn’t fit in our suitcases or we would just buy little toys while in country that she could pick out.

Blow up balloons (dollar section in Walmart)
Alphabet flash cards
Princess suitcase (small)
Clothes (we did not bring a lot of clothes for her because we did not know her size and Poland has plenty of places to go shopping)
Stuffed animal (dog)
Crayons, markers, and coloring books

I hope this post helps you as you prepare for your adoption travels. Adoption travel is like no other travel. You want to be prepared and bring everything that you could possibly need, but you also need to save space to bring home your adopted child(ren)’s items. And remember less is more!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What was adoption court like in Poland?

We were the pilot family for our adoption agency. We did not know what to expect or what they were going to ask. I've tried googling "what adoption court would be like in Poland", but of course nothing came up.

Here is our experience with adoption court in Poland:

Court took a total of 2 1/2 hours. You have one head judge and 2 other sub judges, a prosecutor, and someone transcribing. It was a very small court room. The first 30 minutes or so we were begging the judge to make the ruling that day and she couldn't because of some incorrect paperwork. The judge asked me, Sarai, to go first. I was questioned for about 40 minutes by the judge. Then the prosecutor asked me additional questions, which took about 10 minutes. Wes was then called up and was questioned for about 40 minutes by the judge as well. Then the prosecutor questioned Wes for about 10 minutes. I have almost all the questions on a separate blog post. Click here for those. Most of the questions were standard (name, date of birth, date of marriage, employed or not, etc...) and some were personal.

Then our daughter's foster parents gave their testimony. I was then called up again to confirm some information that I had already stated. The judge also asked what our daughter's name was going to be and how we wanted it on the birth certificate. And that's it. Court did last a little longer than expected (I expected around 1 hour), but we were almost in there for 3 hours. The prosecutor and the 3 judges were very friendly and nice. We had a translator who translated the questions and answers for us and he was also nice.

We were completely exhausted by the time court was over. It was emotionally draining. It was also a little intimidating having 3 judges and a prosecutor. I was so nervous before we got in the court, but during the court proceedings I did not feel nervous at all. Overall it was a positive experience during court even though we still had some paperwork issues to work out with the judge.

7/10/15 Update: It seems like the amount of time you spend in court is up to the judge. Families that have followed my blog emailed me saying that it took them 10 minutes or 30 minutes or 1 hour at the most. I guess we just had a difficult judge who was skeptical about foreigners adopting in her district.

Monday, November 11, 2013

What was going through immigration like?

Going through immigration was easier than we had expected. I had preconceived ideas of us being shoveled into a small room, waiting for an hour while they go through our papers, and then asking us hard questions. But that wasn’t it at all. When we went through immigration, the officer checked our passports and let me and Wes gain entry into the U.S. For our daughter, we handed over the packet of information that the U.S. Embassy gave us in Warsaw. We then were brought into a waiting room with lots of chairs and a tv. We waited literally 5 minutes and they stamped our daughter’s passport and we were on our way. The officers were so nice. They even joked with our daughter. We were not asked any questions because we had done all the hard work before coming home. It was really easy going through immigration.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Things to do in Poland: Our favorite place!

After 2 months of touring different places and seeing different historical sites, we can officially say that we have a favorite activity to do in Poland. And the best part is: it's FREE!!! That's right, completely free and they have bathrooms for no charge. So, what is this amazing place and where is it?

It is a park located in a nearby town of where we lived in Poland (Milanowek, Poland). It was a 45 minute walk from our apartment (5-10 minute car ride). This park has a really cool playground for children really small to really big. It has a big rope jungle gym (about 40 ft. high), a mini rock wall, lots of slides, and swings. The park also includes an outside work out area for adults, a water feature to play in (for kids, but adults can totally take advantage of it), and lots of benches and picnic tables.

This park also includes a restaurant called Piknik. They have coffee, hamburgers, sandwiches, and ice cream.They even speak English, which is a big plus. Here is their website: http://www.piknikgrodzisk.pl/.

This place is really a one stop shop with hours of fun. We would walk 45 minutes there and play for a couple of hours then walk back. We really enjoyed our time playing here; it was one of our many highlights of the trip.

Another place to get coffee in this town not far from this awesome playground is a place called Grano Cafe. They also speak English here. Grano Cafe is about a 5 minute walk from this park. And McDonalds is a 15 minute walk from this park; which they speak English as well. On our way home we would stop at McDonalds for ice cream.

If you are in the area, this playground is a great way to kill some time and see a beautiful park. I hope to add some pictures of this park to this blog post at a later time.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How did you convert your U.S. cash to Zloty?

This is a great question to ask if you are traveling to any country. When we first got off the plane (at the airport), we converted a very small amount of our cash to zloty at a terrible exchange rate. We were unsure of our next couple of hours after the plane ride, so we wanted to exchange just a little of it. Big mistake, don't do it, and learn from us. We used atms. They have a better exchange rate, but of course check your debit/credit card company for any fee that may apply. After your plane ride just find an atm. Atms are everywhere. If you are traveling to a particular city, google and see if there are any atms available. Every atm that we have been to is both in Polish and English.

How do you feel about using a kantor/money changer?

I feel the same way about the airport kantor. Terrible. I don't like to waste my time and have to go to someone to convert my cash. And first of all, I hate having to carry a lot of cash on my person. Why not use technology? Atms!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Questions the Judge asks you in Adoption Court

Here are most of the questions (from what I could remember) the judge asked us in court :

-How old are you?
-When did you get married?
-How much do you make in a month?
-What is your occupation?
-How far away is family?
-How do your parents feel about the adoption?
-How often do you talk with your family (siblings and parents)?
-How many siblings do you have and what are their ages? Are they married / do they have children and/or families?
-Are there any children in your family for your adopted child to play with?
-Do you know someone who speaks Polish where you live in case there is an emergency?
-Why do you want to adopt from Poland?
-What was the first meeting like with the adopted child?
-Was she happy to meet you? Was it positive?
-What day did you take custody of her?
-How do we want the adopted child's name on the birth certificate?
-What is your education level?
-What is your living arrangements? How many sleeping rooms do you have, kitchen, office, living room, swimming pool, or parks nearby, etc...
-How did the bonding period go?
-Did your child cry during that time? Did she sleep well?
-Are you aware of her psych and developmental delay needs?
-Are you prepared to give her the necessary help or specialists that she may need?
-When did you decide to adopt?
-When did you start the process?
-Does the child prefer one of you over the other?
-Do you want a full adoption or a half adoption? (we said full)
(in Poland there are 2 kinds of adoption: full adoption where biological parents and other family do not have any rights or guardianship over the child, vs. half adoption where the biological family and you can share in the adoption and they have the same rights as you regarding the child--that's how we understood it)
-Have you ever spent the night or have experienced kids for an extended period?
-What are your adopted child's favorite foods? games? toys?

After asking us lots of questions, the foster parents of our child had to answer some questions from the judge. Here are those:

-When did you receive care of this child?
-How long have you had her?
-What was her condition like when you received her?
-Have you met the biological parents?
-Have the bio parents shown any interest in the child?
-What are the child's current delays or issues?
-What kind of therapies is she attending right now?
-What grade is she in?
-What does she like to eat, play with, games?
-What was the first meeting like with the adopting couple?
-Was the child excited?

Things to do in Poland: Check out the town you're staying in!

Most of our time spent in Poland was in Milanowek, Poland. A small town outside of Warsaw. It is a nice little town with small playgrounds. And of course, seeing everyone in our family everyday, we got cabin fever really fast and bad attitudes-can't forget that one. So we had to think of some cheap-o ideas for us to do outside our apartment.

We went on the town's website to see if they had any tourist information of things we could do. We wanted relatively cheap touristy things, see here for more cheap ideas. We found a cool walking tour of the town. The town has lots of WWII history. Here is the link that we found the walking tour, and yes, it is in English.

If you are staying in one town for an extended period of time in Poland, check out the city's website and see what's going on in the city and if there are any tourist attractions.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Shopping in Poland Part II

A couple of months ago, I posted about shopping in Poland. In this post, I'm going to share our experiences of shopping that we had while in Poland.

We bought most of our groceries at Tesco. It is basically like a WalMart. They even have a Tesco brand for most items, similar to Great Value brand from WalMart. The Tesco brand is much cheaper than the name brands. Tesco takes all major credit/debit cards. They even have a Tesco card, which we did not get before we left. I wish we had because it is like a Winn Dixie card and you can get percentages off and/or free products if you spend a certain amount. Another place that we would occasionally do grocery shopping is Biedronka. It is not as big as Tesco, but they do have more fresh breads and pastries, my favorite. Our Biedronka only accepted Zloty, so make sure you have enough before you make your purchases. There are other smaller grocery stores where we got "pick me up" things. Those stores usually accepted debit/credit cards.

While we are on the subject of grocery shopping, one thing that I am so glad I brought with me are my reusable shopping bags. Although most stores have plastic bags (for a fee, usually). One thing I wished I bought when we first got here is a shopping cart. Trips to the grocery store were not far from our apartment but carrying enough food for a couple of days and 5 liters of water, your back and shoulders start screaming at you. We invested in a cheap cart for about 67 zloty ($23 U.S.). And it was totally worth it. I wish we could have brought it back with us, but there was no way that it could fit into our suitcase.

For most of our shopping we tried to use our credit card, but had a couple hundred zloty just in case a store did not take credit cards.

When we would go to a mall or a shopping center, almost all of the stores take credit/debit cards. I have several posts about the different malls that we went to while we are here.

Saturday is market day. They block off one road and have it filled with tents of people selling various items. You can get eggs, bread, clothes, kitchen appliances, and vegetables. There is no bartering here, mostly set prices.

Here's a neat resource about grocery shopping in Poland.

If you would like to share your experience shopping in Poland, please post a comment below.

Friday, October 25, 2013

What does a medical exam for a visa clearance look like?

Let's be honest. I don't like doctors. I don't like lab work. I feel like the doctors always find something wrong with me and they usually do. But Sarai, you work for a doctor's office, right? Yea, I do. I guess my problem usually does not rely on the doctor, him or herself, but rather the whole medical exam part. The exams always get me so nervous. So I couldn't even imagine what my adopted child's thoughts would be when we went for our medical exam for visa clearance.

In order to get a medical exam for a visa clearance, you have to find a doctor that is approved by the U.S. Embassy. The medical exam itself took around 45 minutes. The doctor will ask all the standard questions that you would expect a U.S. doctor to ask on a well check up. For an adopted child, the doctor may ask about the birth parents (if you know any information), about the patient's birth (full term or not?), any developmental delays, any vaccinations, past living conditions, etc... And then the physical part of the medical exam starts. In Poland, they make you disrobe to your underwear for the medical exam. I work in a pediatric office in New Orleans and I am so thankful they do not make you do that.

And then Doc McStuffins' Time for a Checkup song pops into my head:

Time for a checkup - Time for a checkup.
I am gonna Check your ears, check your eyes, find out how much you've grown.
(Time for a checkup)
Then I listen to your heart beat, fix you up - ready to go.
(Time for a checkup)
It's ok if you wiggle. This will only tickle a little.
Time for a checkup - Time for a checkup.

Yea, I think we watch too many cartoons here.

The doctor, who was very nice and spoke perfect English, was really great with our daughter. He performed a well check up exam with a vision screening. And because of the new regulations about tuberculosis screening in Poland (children age 5 and up have to get blood drawn), we had to draw some blood. And that's it. It was not bad at all. The cost of the medical exam and the blood work was about 500 zloty (about $170 U.S.) for one child.

 Here is the website of where we got our medical exam done:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

European to U.S. Clothing Size Conversions

Going shopping in another country can pose many problems. Language, money conversions, do they take credit cards, am I getting a bargain, and most importantly different sizes/measurements.

There is nothing like finding a favorite cool shirt and not being able to try it on and not knowing if it is your size. Down below is a link that has helped us figure out if clothing would be too small or too big and give us a general idea of our child's size. The link also includes shoe sizes.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Rubella Outbreak Notice and New Tuberculosis Test Requirements for Poland

Notice: As of October 2013, there is an outbreak of Rubella (German Measles) in Poland. Click here to see the CDC's recommendations regarding this notice and prevention of this disease. If you are planning to travel to Poland make sure you are up to date on your vaccines.

Also, there has been an increase of tuberculosis cases in Poland. Because of the increase, the U.S. Embassy in Poland is requiring all adopted children age 5 and up to get a blood test before they travel to the United States.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Things to do in Warsaw: Golden Terraces, Tomb of the Unkown Soldier, Palace of Culture and Science, and Saxon Gardens

Golden Terraces
All I can say is way too crowded. The train station is located next to this mall, so you see lots of people running around with luggage. It was cool going under the street and seeing the little shops underground to get to this place. The mall itself has lots of stores to choose from, both high end and low end. The food court is a disaster. Because of the heavy foot traffic from the train station, grabbing your food at the food court and then finding a seat can be challenging. If I had to pick between Blue City and Golden Terraces, Blue City for sure. But if you are in the area and want to shop, it's not too bad. Hard Rock Cafe is located in front of it. The Palace of Culture and Science is located near the Golden Terraces.

Palace of Culture and Science
This building is so beautiful on the outside. It makes for a great picture. We went inside the building and got overwhelmed. I would not bother going inside the building, just take a picture of it and move on. You can pay 20 zloty to go out on the viewing deck, but I heard it wasn't worth the money so we didn't do it. There are some museums inside this building, but we did not want to venture through it. It is the tallest building in Poland and was a "gift" from the Soviet Union to Poland. Originally, it was known as the Joseph Stalin Palace of Culture and Science.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
We really wanted to see this place on our way to Saxon Gardens. Unfortunately, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was under construction during our visit (October 2013).

Saxon Gardens
Wow, what a beautiful place. We visited in October and all the trees were yellow and orange, so picturesque. There is a beautiful water fountain in the middle of the park. There is also a small playground for children. The Saxon Gardens are located directly behind The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

What do you think? Have you visited these places? Any other places in Warsaw that we need to visit?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Things to do in Warsaw: Old Town/New Town

Old Town is very beautiful. So many things to take pictures of, so many little shops to visit, and lots of eating places. We spent about 5 hours one day in Old Town. Old Town is located on the Royal Way, which is a big road that has lots of souvenir shops, restaurants, coffee houses, etc...

Old Town has lots of souvenir shops, most are reasonably priced. There is no bartering for items. Almost every store has a set price for an item, which is nice that you don't have to haggle over an item for a good price. They are very friendly to tourists. About 50% of the store owners that we visited spoke English. I visited several store before making my purchases to find the cheapest shop owner.

There are lots of different restaurants in Old Town, Italian, Russian, Polish, Japanese, Chinese. You name it and they probably have it. There are so many to choose from on the Royal Way. Most restaurants have their menu posted by the door so you can see their prices and what they offer. The prices vary with the restaurant. We wanted perogies, traditional Polish food. We went to a hole in the wall restaurant and spent about $20 for 3 people, not bad. There are also tons of coffee shops, as well. My favorite was Coffee Heaven. Coffee Heaven is like Starbucks, but WAY better.

Lots of "touristy" things to do in Old Town. We first visited and took a picture of the President of Poland's house (similar to the White House). It is very beautiful. Next was The Royal Castle in Warsaw. This is site to see. On Sundays, they have free admission into the castle, but keep in mind that almost everything is closed on Sundays like shops, restaurants, etc... For 2 adults and 1 child, we spent about 30 zloty ($10 U.S.). Old Town also has lots of monuments and statues of different people who fought in WWII. There are beautiful churches located in Old Town. Almost everyone we spoke to, spoke English or knew enough English to understand what we wanted.

I'm sure there is a lot more to Old Town that we did not cover, but I think 5 hours was enough time spent seeing the different sites and shopping (my feet sure think so). One thing we could not visit because it was under construction was the Old Town market, which is a big square of lots of vendors.

We did venture up to New Town Warsaw just to see what it was like. It is roughly the same as Old Town, but more locals. It was not as busy as Old Town. Plenty of restaurants and such, but not a lot of touristy shopping places as Old Town.

Have you visited Old/New Town in Warsaw? If so, post what you saw or what your favorite thing about Old Town in the comment section.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Gotcha Day!

Yesterday, October 18th, our daughter became legally ours! No one appealed the Judges decision.  Yea! Whoohoo!

Now, we will work on birth certificate, passport, and visa. Hopefully those things will only take a week to collect.

Things to do in Warsaw: The Planetarium

The Planetarium is located directly behind the Copernicus Science Center, along the Vistula River. It is a small Planetarium. I don't want to sound negative, but it was kind of disappointing. They didn't even have astronaut ice cream, which I thought is a staple at planetariums. I was so impressed with the science center that I had high expectations for the planetarium.

The show that we wanted to see is only available once a week and of course, you have to get tickets in advance. They have a small cafe with hamburgers, hotdogs, drinks, and coffee. You basically just show up 10 minutes before your show, watch your show, and leave. No gift shop or no interactive educational models, just a dome where you can watch shows about stars.

We spent about 50 zloty ($17 U.S.) for 2 adults and 1 child for the One World, One Sky show (Big Bird and Elmo show). The show we watched was great and our daughter enjoyed it. The cafe is reasonable in prices. We spent about 40 zloty ($14 U.S.) for 2 cheeseburgers, a hotdog, and 3 drinks. Most of the people that work at the planetarium speak or understand English.

I don't think we will be back for a next visit, maybe if we had older children who could understand more. If I had to pick between the Science Center and the Planetarium, I would definitely choose the science center.

Here is their website for more information about shows and ticket prices:

Friday, October 18, 2013

Free Fun Activties to do with Your Children

The Polish government requires a 3 week bonding period with your child before the final court happens. And then after that a 2 week appeal period. So yea, we had a lot of time on our hands. We visited museums, shopping malls, a zoo, and a couple of parks. Ok, so now what do we do? We still have a couple more weeks left and we don't want to spend all of our money on attractions. We do have some expenses waiting for us when we return.

Here are some ideas Wes and I implemented during our stay in Poland. Most are free and/or cost very little.

1. Pretend to be a famous painter/sculptor.
Gather your paint supplies and/or playdoh, head out to a nearby park bench, and let your creative mind go to work.

2. Scavenger hunt/Treasure Hunt
Take your children on a hunt. On a piece of paper write and/or draw items for them to find in your neighborhood.  You can put random items on the list or have a list that might lead to a treat like a ice cream shop or hot chocolate/coffee shop. Here are items that we included on our list: flower, leaf, bird, a swing, a park bench, pizza, a book, and tennis courts. Our scavenger hunt lead us back to our home, where I hid a favorite stuffed animal that we had to find (last).

3. Go on a picnic
If it's not too cold. Let your kids help pack and make sandwiches. Take a walk to a nearby park and/or beautiful scenic place.

4. Visit a park or playground.

5. Play Airplane
If your adopted child has never been on a airplane, you might want to prepare them for what it's like. We gathered up all the chairs and stuffed animals. We made tickets out of scrap paper for boarding passes. We took turns being the flight attendant. It was great fun.

6. Dance party
This is a good one, especially if it is raining. Have a "dance-off". Wear crazy outfits and dance to a favorite song.

7. Have a tea and/or hot chocolate party
Dress up, wear hats and gloves, drink with your pinky out, and talk with a British accent. Oh, and don't forget to invite the stuffed animals.

8. Take pictures of monuments or historical sites.
This is a great one if you are in Poland. There are so many little monuments remembering different battles and such. Take your camera, snap a picture, and when you return home, google and research what the monument is commemorating. This is a great free history lesson!

Do you have ideas like these? Please post them below. We are always trying to find creative things to do, especially educational.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Adopt Debt Free: Collect Cans

One way we were able to save money for our international adoption is by collecting aluminum cans. I know, it sounds like a daunting task. But I found out that it was one of the most easiest ways to fundraise for our adoption.

First, gather all your friends and family who drink/use canned products and make a pact with them to start saving them for you. Secondly, go to their house once a week to collect their used cans. Don't forget about step #2; I'm sure your friends will appreciate it. And thirdly, take a trip once a month to your local recycling/salvage shop to turn them into cash. Only 3 steps! That easy.

Now if you live in a big city and have multiple places to recycle/salvage, call around at the different places to see who has the highest rate of return for your aluminum cans.  Good luck!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Hello Kitty Rumor in Poland

While living in Poland, we have learned a lot about food, culture, and language. And now since we have added a daughter to our family, we are learning all about Polish cartoons and toys. Disney characters are very popular here.

There is a popular email going around about Hello Kitty, a popular girl cat character. You can read about the rumor here. We were confronted by our social worker about the Hello Kitty rumor (because we gave our daughter some Hello Kitty notebooks and pens). Of course, I do not believe the rumor is true. We looked the rumor up on snopes.com. We do allow our daughter to have Hello Kitty items in our house. Poles are very religious (Catholic) so they may reject Hello Kitty items because of the rumor. If you are traveling around in Poland with Hello Kitty don't be alarmed if you get some funny stares, it is probably because of the rumor.

*Because of some set backs, the court will rule today if our daughter gets to become our daughter.*

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Adopt Debt Free: Adoption Shower

Adopting Internationally can take a toll on your bank account. You have to buy plane tickets. You need to complete the appropriate governmental steps to be able to adopt, which is expensive (I thought that is why I pay taxes, ha ha). You have to take adoption classes as required by the governmental steps and/or adoption agency. You have to pay an adoption agency (some countries require a licensed adoption agency). You have to pay to live in another country for a long time (more than 2 weeks). You have to pay all of the other country's fees, like court. Wow, that's a lot (+$25,000) and that's just to get over there and back with your child(ren).

But, what about living expenses while you are away in another country? You will also have to pay for mortgage/rent, electricity, insurance, utilities, and etc... And did I mention stuff for your child or children if you are adopting a sibling group? What about toys? Clothing? Diapers? Formula? Any new furniture you have to purchase for the new child(ren)? Maybe a bigger home? Bigger car? All of these things can be over $1,000s of out of pocket expenses.

An average amount of money a family can spend just on one adoption could be over $40,000. Question: Do they have coupons for that? Maybe even a groupon? Haha, I wish.

So how does a family adopt debt free? Well, with support with friends and family they can. And by support, I don't mean strictly financially. I am talking about emotional, spiritual, and physical support. And by physical, I mean friends and family can hold garage sales at their houses for you. Hold car washes on your behalf. Help you, the adoptive parents, come up with fundraising ideas and execute them. Your friends and family can help you mail off your adoption papers. (hey, that's another expense I forgot about-I'm pretty sure the Fed-ex guy and I are on a first name basis). I couldn't tell you how many hours I have missed work by simply having to go to the post office. 

Another "physical" way they can help you is by hosting an adoption shower for you. I know it sounds weird and we usually reserve that for someone having a baby or if they are getting married. But hey, you are bringing a child into your home, maybe not the same way as someone giving birth. So if you have a friend or family member adopting, throw them a shower. They will appreciate it. I'm sure they have a huge shopping list of needs, especially if they currently don't have kids.

And now I want to give a shout out for my mom and dad's church, First Baptist Church Natchez. Thank you all for buying coffee all these years. Thank you for praying for us. Thank you for all your gifts to help get us over to Poland and adopt our daughter.

Thank you to everyone who has helped and even prayed for us. We really appreciate everything that you all have done for us.

We are currently waiting on the court's decision regarding the adoption of our daughter.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Things to do in Warsaw: Blue City Mall

This is probably one of the best malls I have ever visited. I am from a small town, so that might not be saying much. It is 5 floors of goodness. On the fifth floor they have a play place for children, basically a big playground inside the mall. We did not have enough time to visit that, we were too busy shopping. Maybe we will go back and try that out.

On one of the lower floors they have a open-air type market with fresh meats, breads, cheeses, and other produce items. They have all types of eating places from Pizza Hut to Chinese food and other ethnic foods. They have "American" type of foods like McDonald's. There are also plenty of coffee shops and frozen yogurt places.

And I can't forget to mention about the ToysRUs that is located in the mall. At first our daughter was a little scared because she had never seen anything like that before. She soon learned that they had tons of Barbies and stuffed animals. They even have plastic children's cups with popular Polish names on them. We had to grab one of those cups with her name with the traditional Polish spelling on it because when we get back to the States I'm sure we will not find anything with her spelling.

Of course, I need to talk about shopping for clothes for both children and adults. This mall has lots to choose from regarding clothing stores. Like most malls in the U.S., this mall has both high end stores and low end stores. The prices are very similar to U.S. mall prices. Be careful when you shop because you might spend more than you had planned.

This mall has a large grocery store called Piotr I Pawel. They have all kinds on international foods.

This is a great place to kill a couple of hours. We spent a total of 4 hours, which included lunch. Almost everybody speaks English and they take all major credit cards.

Here is their website for more information: http://bluecity.pl/

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Things to do in Warsaw: Copernicus Science Center

All I can say is wow. This is a really awesome place to visit. As an adult, I really enjoyed doing the experiments and seeing the different exhibits here. And of course, our daughter really enjoyed it too. This is a must see if you are in Warsaw.

The Science Center has hands on experiments for children all ages. For little ones (ages 2-6), they have a smaller exhibit that includes: playing with water, smelling different items, and seeing through different animal eyes like snakes and such. For older children (+14 years), they have a special exhibit and science experiments for them. I would definitely go during a weekday and get there when the door opens. There will be school crowds later on, so getting there first thing allows you to try different experiments with ease and without big school crowds.

Some of the hands on experiments include: different water exhibits, archeology exhibits, a human-sized hamster wheel, flying carpet, body exhibits (like how long is your intestines), and so much more. We spent a total of 4 hours going through 2 floors of exhibits. I'm sure we could have spent more time there, but we got really tired. Everyone that we talked to spoke English and Polish, which is nice. Most of the exhibits are in Polish and English and there is no set order in which you view the exhibits. You go at your own pace or rather your child's pace. If you don't like a particular exhibit you can just keep walking to another one, or to one that is less crowded.

Here are some things that we did not get to explore that might be fun: robotics theater, guided labs (physics, chemistry, and biology) where you get to wear an actual lab coat and glasses, and re-generation exhibit (+14 years).

They have a nice food/eating area that is cafeteria style. They take all major credit cards for ticket, gift shop, and food purchases. The gift shop area is rather small for a place that is this big. Our daughter really enjoys stuffed animals and they only had 3 to choose from. They have lockers that you can pay 2 zloty deposit (which is refundable when you get your items out) by the front door if you need to store items you don't want to carry through the center.

When you buy your tickets you get a key card. With this key card you are able to visit the different exhibits and load your exhibit information onto it (like pictures, recorded times, drawings, etc..) and it will be emailed to you.

There are a couple of cons to the Science Center that we found, which it really depends on your circumstance. It can get very loud in there, which may scare children who are not use to that type of environment. Also your child(ren) can become over stimulated here with the different exhibits and other children running around. Another con could be that some exhibits are not age appropriate. There are some exhibits that are about the body that might not be appropriate for young ones. Viewer discretion is advised, but those types of exhibits are enclosed and have labels on them to what they are about (both in English and Polish).

I definitely want to go back here. And I didn't even mention about the Planetarium that the Science Center includes because the Science Center is so big, which you have to buy a separate ticket for at another entrance. We hope to visit that too while we are here. That will be another blog post.

Ok so let's get to the bottom line. How much is it going to cost? Sounds like this place would charge a lot of money for tickets, right? We spent 66 zloty ($22 USD) for 2 adults (25 zloty/adult) and 1 child (16 zloty/child). They have a family of 4 (2 adult, 2 children) ticket packet for 66 zloty, which would be cheaper if you have more in your family. And for our lunch for 2 adults and 1 child was 51 zloty ($17 USD). Our total cost for 4 hours of fun was $39. Not to bad! And it was an educational experience as well.

Here is the link to the Copernicus Science Center: http://www.kopernik.org.pl/en/. Check here for updated price listings and more information about the Science Center.

**The Science Center is located near Old Town Warsaw, so if you are not tired from the center walk to Old Town and see lots of history, shops (factory mall), and eating places.**

Nicolaus Copernicus was born in Poland. Click here for more information about him.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Things to do in Warsaw: The Zoo

In these next set of posts, I hope to give you all some insight on things to do in Poland and give a rough estimate of how much they cost.
The first on the list is the Zoo. It is a great place to walk around and see all kinds of critters.

The Zoo in Warsaw is not too expensive. One adult costs about 20 zloty (about $7 USD) and one child is about 15 zloty (about $5 USD). We spent roughly 2 hours looking at all the animals. Our daughter really enjoyed petting the donkeys (they have a small petting zoo within the zoo). This zoo has many playgrounds and jungle gyms for children to play on. This is not a big zoo, where you can spend all day looking at tons and tons of animals and reptiles, but a smaller zoo with the basic type of zoo animals (giraffes, lions, hippos, birds, monkeys, etc...). You should plan on spending a couple of hours here to walk around and view all the animals. And one last fact about the zoo. Most of the zoo workers did not speak English, although some did know a little English.

The food was not expensive. We spent about 30 zloty (about $11 USD) on 3 cokes and 3 hotdogs. The hotdogs cames with all kinds of fixins like ketchup, fried onions, and some other type of sauces. Not a bad way to spend $11.

Our total cost as a family of three was 85 zloty ($30 USD). I would definitely go back here again if we get another free afternoon in Warsaw.

Here is the Zoo's link for more information: http://www.zoo.waw.pl/.

Side note: There is a really nice park across the street from the zoo.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Shopping in Poland

Before you travel, internationally, you might want to do some research to see how much items cost in the country you will be visiting. You don't want to be taken advantage of because you are not aware of the customs or prices of certain items.

If you are adopting from Poland or just traveling, Wes and I have found this neat-o website from the Polish government that gives you an idea of how much items costs. Click here. This website tells you how much it costs for milk, bread, etc... If you are going to live like a local, you might as well pay the "local's prices".

Since we are on the subject of money, another tip is to find out if the country you are traveling to takes debit cards or if you are able to use atms to withdraw money. Sometimes, using a atm is cheaper than having US dollars transferred to another currency by a vendor. But check your bank's policy and see how much they charge for withdrawing internationally.

If you are traveling to Poland, here is another cool website that gives practical travel information about money. It talks about atms, credit card usage, and using cash in Poland. Of course, if you are not traveling to Poland, you could search on this website to see if they have any information about the country you will be traveling.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Celsius to Fahrenheit Conversion Chart

Every one else in the whole wide world is on the metric system except for United States, which can pose a problem if you are traveling internationally.  So before you travel, you might want to familiarize yourself with the metric system's temperature scale.

Here is a printable conversion chart of Celsius to Fahrenheit (click on the pdf version to print):

FYI: Daniel Fahrenheit, who developed the Fahrenheit scale, was born in Poland.

Friday, August 16, 2013

How to Pack All Your Clothes on Your Carry On: No Space Bags Here

Packing for an adoption can seem very daunting. You want to pack everything in sight, but you want to leave enough room to bring home souvenirs or maybe even some of your adopted child's things.  And sometimes you really don't know what to pack or bring, so that aspect can seem overwhelming too. Packing in general stresses me out. I feel like it is a no-win situation. In this post I hope to give you all some insight on how I make packing stress free for me.

So the big question is: how do we pack for a month away from home for 2 people and have enough room to bring extra stuff back? And I know less is more, but if you are traveling because of an adoption, you have to bring extra, extra stuff (diapers, bottles, toys, coloring books, markers, etc). My goal, and I know it sounds crazy, is to have ALL of our clothes and most personal items fit on our carry ons. We want to leave room in our checked baggage to bring gifts, items for our child, and have extra room for souvenirs. Of course, I did a random google search on "how to pack a month's worth of clothes" in your carry on to see if anyone out there has actually done it. I don't want to re-invent the wheel, ya know. My results came up with these two videos.

1. How to pack a suit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQJWLU8Yvdg
I needed to know this because I don't want our "court clothes" getting wrinkled and looking awful in front of the judge, who will be deciding if we can adopt our daughter- kind of a big deal.

2. How to pack for weeks on a carry-on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDn9l20NlWw

After I watched these videos, I did a "test run" to see if I could actually pack all of my clothes in my carry on. And it works! I was able to fit 1 pair of jeans, 1 pair of nice dress pants, 5 skirts, 7 shirts, 1 dress shirt, 1 dress jacket/blazer, 1 rain jacket, and 1 sweater. Not to mention fitting all of my personal items, a hand towel, and 3 scarves. And I still have room to put shoes! This doesn't even include the clothes that I will be wearing on the plane ride over. Overall, I will bring about 8-10 days worth of clothes, most of my clothes are versatile so I can wear them in lots of combinations, thus creating more outfits.

This method totally works and you don't have to use or buy space bags, thus saving you money. I will definitely use this method when we start to pack for Poland. And one of the best things about this method is that I don't have to worry about lost luggage, because I will have all of my essentials with me on the carry on.

Now of course, if you are traveling to a colder climate, you can't have heavy wintery clothes in your carry on.  They would take up too much space. You might want to pack your heavy clothes in your checked bag or wear your heavy clothes on the plane.

Do you have any travel tips or advice for packing? What do you use or what method do you have that works?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Clothing Advice for Women Traveling (sorry guys)

Poland, like most of Europe, is comprised of beautiful cobble stoned roads. This might present a problem for girls who are in love with their shoes, like me. And since we are going to court in Poland, we will not have the option of wearing heels, unless you hate your feet.

I came across this great find while I was out thrift store shopping (we can't spend a lot of money on clothing items for our trip). I found 2 pairs of shoes that could be dressed up or dressed down depending on what you are wearing. They are super comfy. And the 2 pairs of shoes COMBINED cost $20.  So where did I find this hidden gem? Walmart, of course. I bought a black pair and a brown pair. Now I would tell you the brand name, but I can't find it anywhere on the box. I think it is just a Walmart brand product that's in a red box (pictured below).

Now here are the cons:
They are not in high fashion, of course. I think they are a mix between Herman Munster and Grandma wearing shoes. Whenever we return from Poland, I think I might wear them to the grocery store or to run errands or check the mail box, but nothing too fancy.

The other day I was researching what type of clothing is appropriate to wear in Poland. I don't want to offend anyone, especially the judge. I came across this cool website: Journey Woman.

Journey Woman is a great website if you need to know what to pack, how to dress, and extra (special) items to bring when you are traveling internationally. Women all over the world can post about the do's and don’ts of a particular country. This is definitely an awesome website.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Why Pay: Language School

Learning a new language is expensive! Since we are adopting an older child and will be in her country for quite some time, we feel that it would be beneficial to know a) how to order food, and b) go to the bathroom. We have been using a combination of things to help us achieve this goal, some free and some not so much. Of course, we don't want to spend a lot on a language program because we are saving for the adoption and for future expenses on her. So here are our low cost solutions for learning a new language that we have used.

1. Live mocha is a great FREE resource to learn a language. I know I have mentioned this website before, but you can learn almost any language. I even think they have an app for your phone so you can learn on the go!

2. Since we commute about 1-2 hours everyday, why not buy a couple of audio CD's or mp3's. Even 30 minutes everyday will vastly improve your knowledge of the language that you are trying to learn.
You can buy them on amazon.com or from Pimsleur, which has a great language learning program.

3. Here is a previous post detailing how we are learning the Polish language for free by using youtube.

Do you have a free/cheaper way to learn a language that works for you? Please share below.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Vaccines in the Polish Language

 Wow, It's been almost 1 week since my last post. We have been super busy with adoption paperwork. Is that ever going to end? Probably not! We have no new updates. We are still waiting on a court date. Hopefully we will hear something soon. In the meantime, we are preparing our home for our little girl, learning Polish, and working at our current jobs. Doesn't sound like a lot, but it sure takes up a lot of our time.

This post came about when a coworker of mine needed to look up vaccines in every type of language. I work in a pediatric office and sometimes we have patients who are from other countries. It gave me an idea that I need to have a chart that converts the vaccines from Polish to English. Whenever we travel, we will hopefully be given her vaccine record and it would be helpful to know what she is vaccinated against or if she needs any additional vaccines.

Upon doing a google search, I came across this website that has translated the vaccines from Polish to English. If you are adopting from Poland or another European country this sheet could help you or your Pediatrician figure out what vaccines your adopted child(ren) may need.

Translation sheet: http://www.immunize.org/catg.d/p5122.pdf
 CDC's vaccine recommendation: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/su6201a2.htm

*If you are adopting from another country, it could be beneficial to you and/or your Pediatrician  to do some research on vaccine translation. You don't want to have to spend more time in a doctor's office with your newly adopted child while the nurses research online vaccine translations.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Polish Pride Songs: Warsaw Uprising.

On August 1, 1944, Poland was invaded during WWII and the Poles did not have much back up to help fight off the Germans. They were completely outnumbered but they stood strong. Here is a song by Sabaton (a Swedish heavy metal band) that honors the soldiers that fought during WWII. This song also shows Polish pride of their dark era. The song is titled 40 do 1 (40:1). The song is sung in English but it is hard to understand.

with English subtitles: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnFSb8xcmN4

with WWII pictures: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mz4i9TjOD2w

Here is another song by Sabaton titled Uprising. It is about the fighting in Warsaw (Poland's capital).

Here is recent news article about Polish citizens stopping to honor those who fought in the war:

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Polish Radio Station

Here is another great radio station where you can listen to music in Polish.

I have been listening to this station for the past week. It's a great station with upbeat music even though I don't understand anything.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Hague Adoption Process

Poland is a Hague Adoption Convention country, which means that they abide by the rules set up by this convention. The Hague Adoption Convention sets up rules to protect the adopting parents and the children to be adopted.

Click here for a link about the process for adopting from a Hague convention country. It also includes a link that lists all the countries that are a part of this convention and a chart that compares non-hague with hague convention countries.

We are at the end of step 4!! Two more steps and our adoption will be complete.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Update: Provisional Approval

Here is another update on our adoption: We have provisional approval from USCIS. We are one step closer to bringing our seven year old home!

Now we wait for a court date to be set in Poland. That might take a couple of weeks, but we are unsure of any details at the moment. We might be packing our bags soon! Yea!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Adopt Debt Free: Grocery Budget

When adopting debt free, your grocery budget can be your best friend or your worst enemy.Your grocery budget is probably the most flexible line item on your budget. It took me about 3 years to figure out our grocery budget. We are constantly changing it, for the better might I add. So how can you eat well and stay in budget? Hopefully this post will give you some encouragement or ideas on how to make that happen.

How big is your family? How much do you all eat? How many leftovers do you throw away each week? How many times are you willing to go to the grocery store each month? Should you include personal items/cleaning products in your budget?

These questions have helped me figure out what our grocery budget should be each month. So let me tell you how we do our grocery budget.  

I start out with two lists, one for Sam's and one for smaller grocery stores. It is very important that I make a list because I get very distracted in stores and would spend way too much.

I only go to Sam's once a month. I write down everything that I need to buy in bulk for the month on that list. I don't buy everything that I need at the grocery store in bulk because sometimes it is not the cheaper solution for us.

Now for the smaller grocery stores, my list depends on the week. I like to shop once a week at smaller stores because I can figure out what to cook that week and what ingredients I need. I know some people who make one trip a month and buy everything they need for the whole month. I find it over whelming to plan a whole month of meals at the beginning of the month. I tried doing that and we always had way too many leftovers that we couldn't use because I needed to cook the other meals or the ingredients would go bad. And I find it cheaper to shop weekly because I can catch the store's sales and plan my meals accordingly.

I try to cook three to four meals a week and eat leftovers for the other days that I don't cook. I try to plan my meals based on what ingredients I have on hand and what items are on sale at the store. I mentioned earlier on this blog that I use Budget Bytes to help plan my meals. I am not that creative to be able to throw items together and it taste good. Beth, at Budget Bytes, helps me to accomplish this goal. When I plan my meals weekly, I find that I buy more fresh produce which is healthier than buying prepackaged foods. It does take time to fix meals for the week, but once it's done, you don't have to worry about it for a whole week!

We have saved a lot of money by buying just enough food for us to eat for a week. We do not throw out as many leftovers as we use to. We actually eat our leftovers! And sticking to a set budgeted amount for our groceries helps us to cut our spending and saves us lots of money.

How do you plan your meals? Do you shop once a month or throughout the month? Post your ideas below.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Update on Not Having Internet

Hey Everyone,

Back in May, we posted about how we are giving up the privilege of having to pay for internet access at our house. Here is a random update of how we are surviving still without internet.

In the last two months of not having internet access at our house, we have saved $66 which is incredible. But how are we managing/coping with the loss? We are actually doing better than before. We both got library cards (we have checked out a ton of books and dvds). We don't goof off as much on weeknights for no reason. The house is cleaner (haha). But most importantly we have made new friends and we are spending more time with them.

Of course I could tell you all the great things that we are doing in our spare time without internet and not tell you that we do miss having internet sometimes. The most thing I miss about the internet is looking up recipes online to cook. I have dusted off my cookbooks that have been sitting on my shelf for forever and started using some old recipes of mine that I have marked. I find that I miss having internet access the most is when I am bored, but then I look over at the stack of books I checked out at the library and realize I need to start reading them. Boredom quickly fades between the library books and our cat Merlin wanting attention.

Overall not having internet access at our house has been very manageable. We are able to get free internet access at the library, Tulane, and work. I think this might be a positive improvement that might stick with our family for awhile.