This past Tuesday was one of the craziest days we have had through this whole adoption process. It's a hysterical story (at least for us), but it's a LONG story. So bear with me....(I apologize in advance for the inconsistent verb tenses. I wrote this over many days so they changed and it's too much to fix right now!)
Our social worker at our agency is leaving for her belated honeymoon on Monday. She'll be gone for two weeks, which means we really wanted to get our whole dossier to her before then so she can get them sent to Colombia to start the translation process. In order to do that we needed to get all the final touches on our documents no later than Tuesday.
8:30am- We were expecting to receive our homestudy in the mail by 8:30am. Our goal was to grab the package and immediately get on the road to go get all our authentications and apostilles.
Now, for those of you who aren't familiar with the adoption process, let me explain. Each document we have has to be notorized. In order to prove that the notary is a true notary, we need to go to the circuit court in the county where that notary was commissioned to receive another stamp. This is called an authentication. (Note: Not all states require this step! Maryland does, though.) Our documents were notarized by people in Harford County, Baltimore County, and Anne Arundel County, so we knew we'd have to get to 3 counties that day! Then, after we get all the authentications, we go to the Secretary of State building in Annapolis to get the shiny gold stickers called apostilles. These prove that the authentications are legitimate. (Can we say "RED TAPE"!)
11:50am- Ok, back to the story. We were very IMPATIENTLY waiting for the package that was supposed to be there in the early morning. BUT, the package didn't end up coming until 11:50am. Not much time to drive to 3 counties and 4 office buildings by 4pm. (Actually, you have to submit all the documents by 3:30 in order for them to be finished by 4pm.) So, we raced out the door, dropped the kids off at my mother in laws and headed to the county court house.
12:45-Brent dropped me off while he found parking. I needed one last notary so I ran into the bank on the same street. I asked if they had a notary, but, of course, she said no. I asked if she knew of anyplace nearby that did and she recommended the old pharmacy on Main Street.
Out I ran, through the rain, to find the pharmacy. I found a pharmacy that looked like it hadn't seen anything modern since 1950. The elderly lady clerk was finishing with a customer and there was another customer behind her. Since I was in a huge time crunch, I discreetly asked if she had a notary at the pharmacy. She very rudely responded, "Well, I am, but I can't be bothered with that right now! You'll have to find someone else." My heart sunk, but, I was not going to go down without a fight! LOL!
I pulled out the desperate, pleading voice and begged her to do it anyway. The customer in front of me (an angel) said, "Oh, honey, you go ahead of me. All these working moms, trying to get all their things done on their lunch break..." I could've kissed her! I told her, "Actually, I'm not a working mom, but we are adopting 3 children and I have to drive to three counties by 3:30 and I can't do any of it without getting a notary."
Well, let me just tell you- that worked! The rude lady behind the counter softened and snapped to it!
Out I raced, over one street and into the court building to get the notaries. Thankfully, having done this all before, I knew exactly where to go and didn't have to waste time looking at the signs. I got 5 authentications, and then we were off- racing over to Baltimore County.
1:45pm- Last time, Baltimore Co. was the place that gave me a hard time on the phone about how picky they are about their requirements. So I was a little nervous that things may not go so smoothly. Brent pulled up, I jumped out while he circled the block to look for a metered parking space out front. I literally ran through the building, handed the lady my papers, she looked at them for less than two seconds, slapped some stickers on, and I raced back out! I think I was in the building less than 4 minutes! Brent hadn't even had time to get out of the car to put quarters in the meter!
So, since everything was moving so smoothly, we felt confident that all would be fine. We both hadn't had any lunch and the gas tank was dangerously low, but we both felt like we should press on to the last stop and just get it done.
2:30- We arrived at the circle of office buildings in Annapolis. Brent dropped me off at the circuit court building while he found a parking place. I raced in, and handed the last two papers to the lady there.
That's when the day really got crazy. She couldn't find either of the notary people in the system! What? How could that be?
Finally, she found the one. She had been spelling the name wrong. But, the one from our Psychological Report was not in the database anywhere. And, to top it off, the embossed seal was not pressed through the paper enough so it didn't show all the information very well. (Our psych. report was the one that we had problems with last time. AND, it was a different notary! Sheesh! The doc needs a new notary!)
After what seemed like hours, she finally determined that even though the notary had written Anne Arundel County, he was actually licensed in Queen Anne's County. Oh, my goodness. I cannot even tell you how crushed I was. I couldn't even think straight! What in the world could we do? Even if we did drive to QA County, the paperwork was written wrong! She said the only option was to get our paperwork rewritten, signed and notarized again. I left, very close to tears, only to meet Brent at the door and tell him the disappointing news.
Yet, still we were not going down without a fight! LOL!
When we got to the car, I called the Psychologists office and spoke to his secretary. She was super sweet and apologetic. Thankfully, he was only a 10 minute drive away and the doc hadn't gone home yet! He was ready to walk out the door, but he said this was more important. We really liked this grandfatherly old man, he just picks lousy notaries! His secretary was printing up 4 unsigned copies and we would run down the end of the strip mall to a real estate agent office and get someone to notarize them. Great!
2:50pm. We, of course, hit every stinkin' red light along the way, hit rain, traffic, and, yes, even a funeral procession! At this point, what else could we do but laugh? Once we arrived, we raced down to the real estate office for the notary. But, of course, the guy had left for lunch!
Then the secretary suggested going through the intersection to the other strip mall across the street to a mortgage company. I asked the doctor if he wouldn't mind just hopping into our car. So we "tossed" the 70 yr old doc in the backseat. Just as we pulled into the parking space, he got a call from his secretary saying the notary was in the middle of a house closing and wasn't available! Arg!
Then, we drove a little further and I ran into a Nationwide office and asked for a notary. Nope!
This was getting crazy and we were getting a little slap happy. We're trying to act calm in front of the doctor. After all, he knew Brent's history and we didn't want him to change his mind about us! LOL!
Back to his same strip mall at the suggestion of another real estate office. The doc and I both hopped out, knowing for sure they'd have to have one! Nope! Are there no notaries in this town???
One more suggestion- the Bank of America a few blocks down. Ok. we navigate through rain and traffic and too many red lights again, watching the clock and listening to the doctor ask, "Now, what time do you need to be back to Annapolis?" As if the 10th time he asks it might actually be different!
FINALLY, there is a notary at the bank! The doctor signs, then she does her seal on each page. Then I watch in horror as I notice she has signed two of the documents with only her initials! AAAAHHHH! I don't want to be rude, but I have to stop her. "Oh, excuse me, I'm sure this is how you always sign it, but do you mind signing your full name just as it's written on the seal?" She assures me she has notarized hundreds of documents with just her initials, and it's always been fine. Sigh. But, thankfully, after I insist, she humors me and signs the last two documents with her full name.
It's 3:15. We race back out, drop the doctor off and head back to Annapolis. In the car we laugh at how crazy the last hour has been and relive driving our psychologist around in the back seat of the car. (I know, it probably isn't funny to you all, but at that point, I'm glad we were laughing and not crying, so it was hysterical!)
We rehearse our plan... Brent will slow the car down to a safe enough speed for me to jump out in front of the court house. I will get the authentication on the psych report. He will park and race into the Sec. of State office so he is at least signed in by 3:30 with all the rest of the documents. He will then beg the lady in there to be patient until I arrive! I will RUN two blocks to the Sec. of State office with the last document. We feel hopeful and giddy that this might actually work!
3:25pm- Brent slows, I jump, Brent continues on and almost crashes a police cruiser! I literally run into the building, throw my stuff through the metal detector and run into the office. I go to the same lady that I had an hour ago and tell her we got a new notary. She takes a look at the document and sighs. Then she gets up and goes and talks to her boss at the other end of the room. As I stand there, I notice that the boss is in the process of officiating a wedding ceremony. There's all kinds of joy and hoopla happening 10 feet away!
The lady walks back to me with a downcast look on her face. "What's wrong?" I ask her. She says that she can't accept this document either. The signature doesn't match the signature they have on file! I say, "No! It's ok! I have another signature! LOL!" And I hand her the one with the initials. She says no to the initials. They are very wrong. Initials aren't allowed. I ask to see the original signature. For cryin' out loud! You can definitely tell it's her signature- but she has an extra loop!
And this, my friends, is where I lost it. Out came the TEARS. After a completely stressful day (month, year) I couldn't hold back any more. The tears flowed all while the couple at the end of the room got married! They probably thought I was just sentimental! The poor lady. I knew she felt bad and was regretting making a big deal out of a loop!
I told her that I didn't know what to do. How could I go back to the same notary and tell her that her signature wasn't her signature? When it was! It just didn't match a little index card she had signed 5 years before. After all we had been through, how could I ask the doctor to do it all over again? And now I wouldn't be able to get our paperwork in on time.
The lady just stared at the documents for probably 5 minutes while I cried quietly. Then she put her finger to her mouth and whispered, "I"m just gonna do it. If I ask my boss again, she'll just say no, but this signature is perfectly fine and she's just difficult."
Bless this dear, sweet woman! She quietly pulled out her paperwork and typed up the authentication. I didn't speak, but mouthed "Thank you" over and over again!
It costs $1 and as I went to pay, I told her all I had was a $20. Her face fell. It was then that I realized that the cash register was at her boss' desk if she needed to get change. "Can I write a check?" She smiled with relief! So I wrote that check for $1 and sped out of the office without making eye contact with the boss! I am so thankful for that lady who got it done! I hope she doesn't get in trouble!
3:40- Just for the record, I am completely out of shape. I learned this all too easily as I ran, as fast as my legs could go, in the rain, under the construction scaffolding, two blocks over and down one block to the Sec. of State building. I just KNEW I was going to slip since it was so slick, but I didn't! I made it to the office just as the worker there was finishing our documents. I, breathlessly, handed her the last one, and thirty seconds later we walked out.
3:50- I am in awe. It is ONLY by the grace of God that we accomplished what we did. We left in shock that we actually did it. We are exhausted mentally, physically (me from running!), and emotionally. And a little lightheaded since neither of us had eaten all day!
If you have made it through this epic-sized post, I am impressed. It has taken me FOREVER to write it. I'm afraid it is a bit boring to everyone else, but I wanted to remember the details for our chicos when we tell them how God moved mountains (or in this case, signatures) in order to bring them home. Unfortunately, in all the chaos, I didn't take a picture of our stack of documents like I'd wanted to. Oh, well.
So, our dossier is on it's way for translations and will be submitted to the ICBF as soon as our immigration approval comes back. Progress....!!!!