Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Okay. I got your feedback and I made some changes. I added a new column on the Wait List page and some info in the FYI section.

Let me know what you think... and check my work!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Sensitive Topic

The heartbreaking news that Ethiopia will be limiting single-mom adoptions left me speechless. It was not a surprise that a change was made in policy, but this particular change was not what I was expecting. Single parent adoption is, obviously, something I "believe in." The same way that I "believe in" transracial and transcultural adoption. The same way that I "believe in" not limiting adoption based on gender, religion, race, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical disability, economic status or any other of those "non-discrimination" circumstances that we are legally and morally bound by in the US.

(And yes, I did list sexual orientation there- I didn't miss Becca's post- or the controversy surrounding it. I have lots of thoughts about this that I intend to share once my courses are over for the semester!)

Of course, I respect that the culture of Ethiopia- and their standards and expectations for their children- are different than the US. What option do we have but to accept that they believe single moms to be a "last resort" for their children? It is the way their culture is. They aren't American and they do not hold to the same values and morals (for instance, they also prohibit adoptions by homosexuals and single men based on their cultural norms/values.) It's heartbreaking for the women who are in the process and faced with these delays, but I also feel like there is not much else that can be said or done. It is what it is. I am so sorry for the women who are left waiting, but I am also so happy that the option of single mom adoption from Ethiopia still remains viable.

This is where I am about to (maybe, but I hope not) step on some toes. Most of my readers know that I keep up this little list. Since the list was designed to give Gladney families a picture of what the process/timeline is like for other Gladney-ites, I feel like I should somehow separate out or mark single moms on the list, since their timeline will, obviously, now be different than married couples. Should I make a "Couples Waiting" and "Singles Waiting" page? It is my understanding that once a referral is given, the process is still the same, so from referral on (and even in the paperchase stage) there is really no reason to separate out the singles and couples. At the same time, I don't want to be offensive or "discriminatory" towards singles. I just want to provide accurate, insightful information that is easy to find and access.

I'd really like some feedback on this! Thanks in advance!


I am the only one who keeps calling the peeps in my county about how to do this re-adoption thing and keeps getting the run-around?

Seriously, you would think they have never heard of an IR-4 visa. Ugh. I can't deal with this until after finals.

(This makes me feel like both a bad mom and a lazy mom. But finals are next week. So really, what's another week and half of delays? If I get it done within the first 3 months home, I should be good, right?)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Prayers for Travis

As most Gladney Ethiopia Program families know, Travis Norwood, one of the in-country reps for Gladney, has been having some serious battles with his health. I thank God for the opportunity he had to be in the US and get the great care that the US health care system offers.

Please keep the Norwood family in your prayers during his continued therapy and recovery time. Please also pray for the rest of the staff in Ethiopia who are carrying the weight of the Norwood's work while they are here in the US.

If you would like to participate in a group prayer time, on Sunday, November 16 from 7:30-8:00pm EST, join with others across the nation as we pray for Travis, his family, the doctors treating him, the in country staff who know him so well and are acting in his absence in Ethiopia and all of those who have been or who are touched by Travis's presence in their lives...

Our children and each of us are better for having him work with Gladney.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

You, too, could be a winner!

This little guy is.

So is this little girlie.

This little girl soon will be.

If you are home with a little one that spent time in the older baby/toddler room at the Gladney Care Center anytime from May-September, 2008.... you too could be a winner!

Just email me at yellow_grace at yahoo dot com to claim your fabulous prize*!

* Fabulous prize is an email from me discussing the intricacies of Anna stool pattern. Seriously, wondering if anyone else has any ideas?


I wrote a Motherletter.

"And then I see my fair-skinned, blue-eyed 6 year old protectively hug her molasses-skinned, midnight-eyed sister in a crowd of children who look at them with questioning eyes. And I know there is so little that I really need to teach them. Because God has given them the gift of each other. And they will teach each other more than I ever could."

Will you write one, too?

So Glad

It's over.

Anna was a total doll the first have of the post-placement visit, and a total brat the second half. Someone really needed a nap.

But at least my house was clean:)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


It appears we have an alien in permanent residence here at our house.


If you don't get my joke, I'm just trying to say that Anna got her permanent resident alien card from USCIS.

Now I just need to get crackin' on that re-adoption stuff. You know, once I make sure I am not going to fail out of my final semester of college.

More Halloween pictures are up here.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


So, on Saturday, we have our first post-placement visit.


What kinds of questions should I be preparing for? What will she want to know or see?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

BU '09 (Clarification)

The Blog Union 2009 is in Chicago. This is the second annual blog union- a follow up to the event in LA in August, 2008. This is for Ethiopian adoptive families only.

The Blog Re-Union 2009 is in Tulsa. This is for Guatemalan and Ethiopian adoptive families.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

BU '09 (Chicago!)

So, BU '09 is in Chicago this year! Woot! I love my hometown! (let me rephrase that- I love to visit my hometown!) August 6-9, 2009. We will so be there- as might the infamous Doctor John, my mom, and my sister! Hope to see all the Ethiopian adoptive families there!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

International Adoption Social Worker Appreciation Day?

As many of you know, November is National Adoption Month. And March is Social Worker Appreciation Month. But I am thinking that international adoption social workers are really special. They put up with a special brand of crazy that only comes with the wait of IA. They deserve their own day.

So, what if we pick a day in November to be International Adoption Social Worker Appreciation Day?

(IASWAD... I as wad? I a swad? Sounds funny when you say it out loud.)

I know having a great social worker made me feel better- even thought the process was anything but easy. I know so many of you are truly blessed by the kindness, patience, and endurance of your case worker. And while I am most familiar with Gladney's team, I am know that this is true across all agencies.

So, what do you think? Should we do it? Anyone want to name a date?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

So Thankful...

I looked back at my archives today, and watched the movie of Abigail seeing her sister for the first time.

Then I re-read my referral story.

And then one of my all-time favorite posts.

I am so thankful that I have a record of this process- not only to give me some perspective if (when) I do this adoption thing again, but also to have it to share with Anna. To show her that for 9 months, my whole life pretty much revolved around meeting her. To show her how much she was loved, how much she was wanted, how much she was anticipated, even before I saw her face. One day, that will mean a lot to her.

And I am so thankful for the wonderful adoption community I have met during this process- and all the support I received along the way.

Now I am going to try to post some pictures over on Gracelings.

Monday, October 20, 2008


For those who wait:

When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, "I will surely bless you and give you many descendants." And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.

Heb. 6:13-15

Be encouraged as you wait today. I am sorry if I hurt or offended anyone with my previous post- believe me, I know how terribly difficult it can be to wait during this process- I cannot imagine how difficult it is to wait once you have seen your child's face.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

T.I.E. (Proceed with Caution)


The following is a rant, pure and simple. I will probably offend you, and if you think that is possible, don't read this, because I don't really want to offend you. I just want to tell it like it is, so to speak, and weigh in on some of the present issues in Ethiopian adoption. So, basically, read at your own risk.

Adoption- especially international adoption- is not for sissies. And it is really not for people who choose to not inform themselves about the process (and the potential for changes in the process) before hand. And it is super not for people who choose to believe that when a government changes it's policies, it is specifically directed at the individual.

I am really frustrated right now... there have been some policy changes (not surprisingly) during the court recess in Ethiopia. And now a lot of families are finding that their cases will be delayed. For some of them, they will be delayed again... months of delays, months of missing those milestones, months of empty arms.

I am so sad for these families- I cannot imagine how horrible this feels, and I am praying for you all. I had the pleasure of meeting several of your babies, and I cannot imagine anything more wonderful that you being united with your precious ones. I am so sorry, and I wish there was more that I could do.

But, to you, the one who incessantly complains- to you I say... GROW UP! This is not about you. This is not about Gladney (and in fact, Gladney is awesome!) This is about a policy change, and only a policy change.

I know it sucks to not be with your child... I know you have to re-adjust your expectations. But here is the thing- your words make it obvious that you have a lot of growing up to do before you can teach your child how to properly behave in discouraging and disappointing circumstances, because you need to learn it first. And maybe this is God's way of teaching you a few lessons.

If you stopped complaining about how you never get your way, maybe you could learn a thing or two about those who truly don't have hope. If you stopped focusing on what you want and when you are going to get your wants fulfilled, maybe you can learn about meeting the needs of others (this is what being a parent is about, especially when your kids are young.) And if you stop complaining about your situation (which, in the grand scheme of things, is not that bad) and started looking at the truly horrible things that are happening in this world, maybe you would be able to put this situation into perspective, and move forward into a place that is less about you and more about benefiting those around you (ahem, again, this is the crux of parenting- it's NEVER about YOU!)

My sister and I were g-chatting about this issue yesterday, and of course, the question she asked is "Why?" Why the policy changes? Why the lack of notification? Why the last-minute scramble now on the part of Gladney?

Why? Because... This Is Ethiopia. (T.I.E.) This is the way it goes. And the only thing we can do is accept it, or move on. Adopting from Ethiopia is a choice- it is not forced on you. And you can either accept that things may change from what you anticipate, or you can move on.

I know this is easy for me to say, sitting on the "completed" side of the adoption cycle, but more than anything, this is a good lesson to learn about life. Because, really, this is life. And there are always situations that are beyond your control- situations that disappoint and hurt and frustrate and anger you. And you can either accept that those situations exist and deal with them, or you can choose to move on in your life to a place where you don't deal with those situations- you can remove yourself from them.

Make the choice. And then deal with it.

And for goodness sake, stop complaining all the time!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

FAQ: Daily Life and Travel Planning

  • How much money did you spend while there?

I took $3000 but spent just less than $2000. I did not buy as many souvenirs as I wanted to buy, but probably spent about $200-300 on "gifts" for my girls and others. We also spent about $75 total at the salon (one massage and 2 separate hair dos for my mom and Abigail plus tips). Our biggest expenses were the guest house and the driver, which were both quite reasonable. Group meals ran between $60-100 ETB ($6-10 USD) per adult. We got double macchiatos daily from Kaldi's at $8.33 ETB ($0.83 USD).

  • How much eating did you do???? (I know this sounds like a dumb question but it just popped up in my head)

I may be the only person who ever went to Ethiopia and gained weight. I loved the food and ate until I was full at every meal. Plus, with a 6 year old and a toddler, we ate lots of snacks! We were not sick, and like I said, I really liked the food in general (don't order mac-n-cheese unless you like goat cheese, though!)

  • Was there a coffee ceremony or greeting-day ceremony?

On embassy day, we met at the Gladney Care Center (baby house) for a coffee ceremony and then toured the facilities. Normally, Waguyu would also prepare a coffee ceremony for us, but he had many family members visiting from all over Europe, so he was busy- and WE were busy!

Because your travel group will all arrive at different times and from different airlines, etc, the first (and in our case) and only time you might see some of your group is on embassy day. All of the events/meals are optional (except the embassy:) so plan on going at your own pace and doing the things that are right for your family. I do highly recommend that you take the time to go to the orphanages. You can take your children with you to the orphanages, and it is well worth the experience.

  • Did anyone tape or photograph the first time you laid eyes/arms on Anna?

We had the assistance of Phillip (Gladney volunteer) as well as M&R to take videos and pictures of our "placement." it was really great to have the 2 views- as you probably saw in the Ethiopia Montages.

  • Did you have pre-planned questions for Anna's birthmom or did you just go with the flow?

Yes, I had a few questions I knew I wanted to ask. But I also knew I would go with the flow. The social worker who was there to act as a facilitator and interpreter prodded Anna's b-mom to tell the story of how Anna "came to be."

Some of the "must ask" questions were:

  1. Family Medical History
  2. Any medical history for Anna during the year she was with you? Did she receive any medical care or medications?
  3. Any complications during pregnancy or labor?
  4. Why did you choose the name Misrak?
  5. What would you like the baby to know about you?
  6. Would you like to exchange letters/photos through Gladney as the baby grows?
  7. What would you like to know about me and my family?
  8. What can you tell me about the baby's father?
  9. Who does the baby look like?

Some other questions I also asked were:

  1. What was your favorite subject as a child?
  2. What was your favorite activity (sports, music, art, etc...)?
  3. What was your family like? Do you have brothers or sisters?
  4. What was your favorite childhood memory?
  5. What would you like the baby to call you (right now we call you her first mom)?
  6. What would you like the baby to be/do when she grows up?

I also shared quite a bit about our family, including what I plan for the girls as they grow (including that both girls will have the chance to go to University and will be raised in the church.) When Anna's b-mom learned that both my sister and I are nurses, she said that is what Anna should be when she grows up:)

I was also privileged to get pictures and video of Anna and her b-mom walking outdoors together, playing, and singing/dancing together. As much as it was difficult to let Anna go to her b-mom, it was also so easy- I knew that this was probably the only opportunity I would have to get pictures of them together, and for Anna's sake, I wanted some that were natural and relaxed, so that she could see how beautiful her b-mom is.

The birthmom meeting was difficult and wonderful, and if you have the chance, I recommend that you take the opportunity to meet. I think Anna's b-mom also appreciated meeting Abigail and my mom. I gave her a book with pictures of our family, and explained who each person was, and I think it made her really happy to know that so many people already loved and wanted Anna.

  • What type of carrier/sling would you recommend?

I took 2 carries with me which I wrote about here. I like them both, and used them both. I used the UBW when we went to the orphanages. It was a long day, and that was far more comfortable getting in and out of the car than the HH would have been. Since we did not take a stroller (and would not have had enough hands to manage a stroller in the airport anyway) I used my HH while we were grabbing our luggage. It is easier to put on while still on the airplane (the UBW takes a while- and space! to get it on right) and it was helpful to not have to carry the baby while trying to claim our luggage:)

If I could only take one, I would have taken the HH. It adjusts easily, and while I would not want to wear it for an all-day trip, I could have easily shared the duties with my mom if we only had the HH.

Monday, October 6, 2008

FAQ: Care Centers/Orphanages

Before I respond to your questions about the care centers and orphanages, I want to take a minute to clarify the difference between the two, especially since I don't know who all is reading this!

Did you know that in the US, we do not have any orphanage, and we haven't had them for decades? American children, for better or worse, are in the foster care system or placed into group homes.

In Ethiopia, there are orphanages. There are private orphanages, and government run/sponsored orphanages. I was able to visit 3 government run orphanages during my trip: Kolfe (for boys age 12+ years), Kechene (for boys and girls 0-12 years and older girls age 12+ years), and Kebebe (for boys and girls age 0-12 years.)

Try to imagine what these orphanages are like. Have you ever visited a developing nation? I never had, and because of that, I really had no frame of reference for what to expect at the orphanages.

The facilities that we visited were all built in the 1960s or before. Updates and renovations all seem to be sponsored by NGOs or individuals, so as you can imagine, the facilities are not always "modern." (Ryan explained that one of the orphanages only got indoor plumbing within the last few years- and only because a NGO sponsored the renovations.) Kolfe is by far the most "behind" in terms of facilities, and Gladney does use a portion (I have no idea what portion) of the humanitarian aid and donations to help better the facilities and education of the boys at this orphanage. Gladney also works with the other government-run orphanages to try to meet some of the needs there.

The orphanages are not staffed as you would expect, given the US standards for caregiver-child ratios in day cares and group homes. At Kebebe, the "baby room" had one adult and one older girl (maybe age 10?) to care for about 20+ babies and toddlers. For the older children, I saw 1 or 2 caregivers for about 50 kids. These employees are also responsible for cleaning the children's rooms and common areas, as far as I can tell. Thankfully, the "older" kids tend to look out for the "younger" kids (ie- the 7 year olds take care of the 3 year olds.) Not at all what I expected, but this is the way things are in Ethiopia. This is their "normal."

Basically, the government provides food, some clothes, and a few employees for these orphanages... that's not much when you consider that these orphanages are supporting about 125+ children, each. Every penny of aid supplied to these orphanages is needed. Every penny.

Now, the Gladney Care Centers are different. For most of us, our children come to the Gladney care centers from an orphanage, or perhaps they are relinquished, processed through a private orphanage, and sent directly to the care center. I am not sure if some of the older children are placed directly from the orphanages, but I believe all the kids spend time at the care center before placement.

If I had to make a comparison, I would say that the Gladney Care Centers are similar to a 24 hour day care. Now, I don't mean a day care by US standards, but the care centers are very nice by Ethiopian standards. They are in a very nice neighborhood, and the homes are nice and large by Ethiopian standards. The care centers are kept clean, and the kids have clean clothes and nutritious foods.

Now, you have to keep in mind that it would be unfair to compare these care centers to similar US centers. Ethiopia simply does not have the same resources as the US, and they don't have access to the same supplies. Similarly, there are vast differences in culture when it comes to raising, teaching, and nurturing children. We cannot expect that the care centers will be like the US when they are in Ethiopia and run by Ethiopians.

Additionally, some of the things you would expect in a US center are simply not logical in an Ethiopian care center. For instance, toys that require electricity or batteries are just not going to work well or last long in Ethiopia- at least not in the way they were intended. Additionally, the care centers are constantly fighting against germs- viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, etc. In the US, we worry about colds or maybe the flu spreading among the kids in a day care; in Ethiopia, they not only worry about colds, the flu, pneumonia, and such, but they also have to worry about diseases like giardia, ringworm, and tapeworms. So the equipment and toys in the Ethiopian care centers need to be very easy to clean and hold up well to frequent cleanings.

Keeping that in mind, I think the care centers are very nice by Ethiopian standards. The employees were constantly cleaning... well, everything! The caregivers were interacting with the kids, and the primary caregiver for each child knew exactly where that child was developmentally, as well as how to make them laugh within seconds:)

Now for some specific questions:

  • What was the orphanage like?

I have described the actual orphanage and care center facilities above. But I don't think that is what this question is about... The orphanages were overwhelming. There were so many sweet children, and all I could think was "who will be their mommy? Who will tuck them in tonight? Who will tell them what they were like as babies, and when they got their first tooth, and when they started walking, and what their first word was? Who will love them?" For me, it was one of the saddest parts of the trip- especially for the Kebebe and Kechene orphanages, where kids younger than Abigail were looking after toddlers.

The care centers were a totally different experience. In a way, they were more chaotic because there were so many more people- especially adults- trying to talk to you. But it was a more hopeful experience for me, because I knew who would be the mommies and daddies for these babies. I knew that each and every one of them was going to be matched or had been matched to a family who desperately wanted and loved them. I guess I "worried" less about them- and I knew that until their mommies and daddies could come get them, they were being loved and cared for by some wonderful women.

  • Did they have enough toys?

Honestly, I don't think I saw any toys at the orphanages. I am not sure if they didn't have any, or if I didn't see them, or if they were in such bad shape that I didn't recognize them as toys.

At the GCC, the kids in the baby rooms had a few small toys that floated around the room to whoever was awake. In the toddler room, there were a few toys out when I arrived. I came at a non-play time, so I don't know if there were more toys or what. But honestly, most of the toddlers weren't interested in toys so much as just chasing each other and playing with the caregivers, Abigail, and I.

If you are interested in giving toys to either the orphanages or GCC (I am sure they could be used at both places) I would check with Gladney first. I am not sure if they have a list of specific needs or if the orphanages have restrictions on what you are allowed to give the kids. At any rate, keep in mind that most of the older kids speak very little English, and read even less English,so elaborate books and games would probably not be very popular.

As I said above, keeping things clean and having toys that are easy to clean and can hold up are very important. I think that for older babies/toddlers, some good toys would be plastic blocks, plastic balls, "Little People" type toys/cars/planes/people and plastic dolls. I would avoid those "soft and cuddly" toys because they are so hard to clean and do not hold up well. Additionally, the best kinds of books would be picture board books (the caregivers don't read a lot of English, in general.) The toddler room might also benefit from a small "Step 2" type table and chairs or a small slide.

  • Were the kids able to play a lot of the time or were they in their cribs a lot?

At the orphanages, the kids that were not in school pretty much seemed to run around and "play" as they wished. I didn't personally observe any organized play (games, art or whatnot) but that is not necessarily representative of what happens when the Americans are not there... Most of the babies were in their cribs, and the older babies/toddlers were running around in the baby room. I will be honest- it was a bit chaotic!

At the GCC, the babies pretty much seem to stay in their cribs unless they are being held by a caregiver. Within their crib, they can play with toys, sit up with a Boppy pillow, etc. The older babies are pretty active within their cribs, and learn to pull themselves up, grab toys from the caregivers, and in at least one case, terrorize their neighbors:) The older babies who are working on walking skills do spend one-on-one time on the floor with the caregivers, but the older baby area is not made for playing on the floor, so once the older babies can walk independently, they are moved to the toddler room (as space allows.)

In the toddler room, the children have their own cribs, and have toys inside their cribs. They are able to get out of their cribs to play and run around. I think the care givers avoid letting them all out of their cribs at the same time to avoid having too many collisions between those "toddling" toddlers:) But the kids in the toddler room were all very familiar with what to do when their feet hit the floor! And man, some of them were quite fast!

  • Were there any obvious needs?
This is a difficult question. At the orphanages, there were lots of obvious needs- more than I could ever list here. The needs were varied- from the need of a physical therapist for one of the children, the need for a VP shunt for another child to correct his poor vision caused by excess fluid in the brain, to the need for more caregivers, food, and clothes. There were a lot of "obvious needs" to me.... but at the same time, the needs were pretty overwhelming. I don't think any of us are prepared to meet the "needs" that an entire orphanage has.

At the GCC, I would not say there were any obvious "needs" but then, I also think my response is being formed based on my ideas of what "needs" are. The children are in safe, comfortable homes. They have enough caregivers, food, clothes, diapers, etc. They don't have as much "stuff" (ie- toys) as American children, but they were clearly having fun and enjoying themselves, so I wouldn't call that a "need." The children were kind, engaging, and responsive (at least to their caregivers). They were, by and far, developmentally appropriate, and had evidence of growing and developing. Therefore, I would say that their "needs" were more than met.

At the same time, there were several things that could enhance their lives, but if I had to make the choice between giving to the GCC and the orphanages (and I am not trying to tell you what to do, just what I would do...) the orphanages have drastic needs. The GCC have "wants."

  • Does Gladney run the older kids' homes as well?

Gladney has a "baby house", an "older baby/toddler" house, and an "older children" (age 2+) house. The truth is that we all know older children are less likely to be adopted, and since the roll of the GCC is to provide a "daycare" setting for a child until they are placed for adoption, Gladney simply does not have as many older kids in their care. But the older kids are absolutely adorable! We got to spend some time with them and they are very sweet. I would say that in general, the older kids are much more shy.

  • Are the care centers well equipped, or would they still benefit greatly from donations/humanitarian need?

The GCCs are well-equipped, but only because of the continuous influx of humanitarian aid. The $200 of diapers, wipes, formula, clothes, etc. that are required of adoptive parents do, for the most part, stay at Gladney. But what you may not realize is that Gladney gives $1000 of your "fees" as a humanitarian aid donation to be used in Ethiopia. This money has been used towards different projects, such as refurbishing some of the facilities at Kolfe. All of the Ethiopian orphanages would benefit greatly from any donation made. Like I said, the GCCs are nice, and with the humanitarian aid as well as whatever budget Gladney allots them, they do well. But the orphanages are different. Every penny counts there. It's hard to explain until you see it. But once you see it, you will be left with the feeling that you wish you had done more.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Anna: The Stats

Age: 18 months (in 5 days)

Height: 30.25 inches (50th percentile)

Weight: 18.5 lbs (-10th percentile)

Clothing size: 12-18 months

Shoe size: 3

Favorite game: chasing the cat/ playing peek-a-boo

Least favorite activity: Sleeping

Favorite song: The Wheels on the Bus/ The Ants go Marching

Favorite food: vanilla yogurt/ Gerber meat sticks

Least favorite food: Fresh peas/ milkshakes

Favorite word: Momma!

Special Skills/Abilities: Throwing tantrums, going excessive amounts of time without sleep, making everyone laugh with one grunt

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Health and Development (or, measures and meanings)

********* This post originally composed 10/1/08*********

Yesterday Anna had her first visit with the doctor. Man, she is tiny by US standards! (See a girls height and weight chart here.) She is 30.25 inches tall which puts her at the 50th percentile. After meeting her birthmother, she may just be a 50th percentile child in terms of height.

At only 8.4 kg (about 18.5 lbs) she is not even on the chart for weight. While the doctors all agree that she is healthy, developmentally appropriate, and well-attached, her weight will be watched closely. We are awaiting the results of her blood work and stool samples (I suspect worms, honestly) and we will go from there. Given that she is active, engaging, and eating pretty much everything in sight, we will just feed her nice fattening foods and see how she does!

Speaking of Anna's development, she now says 7 words, and babbles and sings in between words. She says:

Momma (that's me! This was her first word)

Moah ("more"- she can also make the sign for more when she wants to, but like most toddlers, it's only IF she wants to!)

Ab-bah (Abigail)

Ney (Amharic for "come"- she will say this and put her arms out to be picked up, or if her toy is too far away, she will point at it and say "ney!")

Hi! (she waves, too, when she feels like it, but never when you request it of her!)

Don (John)

Lee-Lee (Lily)

She also makes a grunting/gorilla sound when she sees the cat, and while she was initially terrified of Lily, she now thinks the cat is delightful (as long as there is a grown up around to rescue her should Lily actually turn out to be a demon cat.)

Abigail is definitely Anna's favorite toy. No one makes Anna laugh like Abigail does! When Abigail calls Anna, she faithfully trots after her, even if it is just to watch Abigail go potty! Nothing that Abigail does is to little for Anna to notice- and I get the feeling that imitation is next:)

I think (and every one around us agrees) that Anna is attaching quite well. She knows that I am her Momma. And even when I have to correct her behavior, she still wants to receive her comforting and love from me. I am the only person that she will initiate kisses with:) When she is upset, I am the one she wants holding her, and when she is happy or achieves a new skill, she wants to make sure I have seen it. I am not claiming to be totally attached and bonded, but considering that I have only been with this child for a little over 2 weeks, I think things are coming along nicely in that department.

Now, sleeping through the night? That is a whole other ball game. So far, in the past 2 weeks, Anna has slept through the night twice. Once on a fluke on Saturday night, and then again last night (after getting 6 shots and a blood draw!) Every other night she has woken up at 3am at the latest- sometimes sooner. I really think she wakes up because she is hungry and uncomfortable (she tends to poop between 1am and 3am) because when I clean her up and she sucks down a bottle, she is able to go right back to sleep, sometimes for up to 3 more hours before she wakes up and demands food!

We are still trying to figure out a schedule. She missed her nap yesterday and today because of doctor's visits, and she did surprisingly well during the afternoon and evening. John says maybe she is just one of those kids who needs to sleep from 7pm to 7am, take a short morning nap (she usually rests from 9-10am) and then be up for the rest of the day.

Man, I hope not.

Anyway, here is some fun from our first days home. Now that the super-fun people (read- Teta and Gaga) have left, I hope we can keep up the pictures and the fun... but they set the bar pretty high!

A note from Faith

I just wanted to let everyone know how I'm doing. Thank you for your prayers. I know that they made a difference.

Just to explain a bit about what I meant when I said it was really hard...

For starters I got about 4-6 hours of sleep a night for about a week and a half before going out to visit Grace and the girls. (I usually need 8-9 hours per night.) That and the emotional drain of having my family far, far away and Anna getting really sick was a pretty bad start to my visit. Then, there was the lack of sleep with those jet-laggers. Abigail was falling asleep during dinner every night and waking up at 3 or 4am. Yikes! That did not work out well.

It was not what I expected and it all weighed on me. Heavily. I think if I had planned on being incredibly tired and laying around in pajamas all day and just doing the basics (making sure everyone ate, poor Lily, I think she ate on average about every other day) I would have been very impressed with all that we were able to do. We made it to the grocery store almost every day (we couldn’t get it all together to make a list beyond what we needed for that day!) We got all the laundry done before my mom had to leave. We made it to church Sunday morning. (Thanks for your prayers!) Umm…I think that’s about it. If my to-do list had been much, much shorter, I would have felt amazed at all that we were able to do. I was expecting WAY too much. (I had lists of the nearby attractions that I wanted to visit, the hours and the prices…yeah, high expectations)

Loving Anna was not hard. She is very happy and affectionate. She puts her hands up to be picked up. She gives hugs and kisses (which I loved except the snot bubble part.) She throws a mean toddler fit but wants to be comforted and snuggled afterward. (I don’t think she had any real attachment issues, but I’m no expert. All I know about attachment I read on y’alls blogs. I am praying for all of you who are dealing with attachment issues. I can’t even begin to imagine…God Bless each and every one of you and may He move mountains on your behalf.) It was NOT hard for me to spend time getting to know Anna. It was very hard for me to do that while spending time with and loving Abigail. She did wonderfully. She was very understanding of all the time that the baby needed. But, it was a major change for me. I am accustom to giving Abigail my undivided attention. She has been my only niece for almost 6 years. I am used to spoiling her. (Not condoning it, just telling the truth here.) It was very hard for me to divide my attention. I wanted to spend time with them both. I wanted to give undivided attention to them both. It was so difficult emotionally for me. It is like a hard-to-break bad habit.

One day (they’re all blurred) I had a God moment. I realized that I was trying to be everything for everyone. I was not created to do that. That is not my place. That place belongs to God. After I had some quiet time I felt better. Things began to improve after that. I learned to divide my attention and my time. I made myself step back and let Abigail do her own thing or wait until I was finished helping Anna. I made myself start putting Anna down some. Guess what...she can walk! She likes playing on the floor with her toys. She likes to "run" around chasing her ball. She likes to dance. She likes it when Abigail dances. She likes being on Abigail’s level. And Abigail loves playing with her. I realized that by trying to spend quality time with them I was taking away from their time with each other. It is fantastic to see Abigail and Anna’s relationship develop. They really like each other a lot. Abigail is a great big sister. And Anna misses her when she is not around. Abba (for Abigail) is one of the three (I think) words that Anna says now. It was such a blessing for me (and for them) to step back and allow them to bond further.

I hope and pray that those who will travel soon will have the prayer covering that we had thanks to all of you and our churches. Also, I hope that you will have more realistic expectations then I did. And please take lots of pictures. Even if you are in pajamas and there is stuff everywhere. Believe me; if you don’t take pictures you will surely regret it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Ethiopia Montages

What you've all been waiting for....

Music from African Dreamland and Blink.


This is my first day home alone with Anna- my sister left this morning.

Little bit nervous.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Q&A: Travel

Q. Did you buy Anna a seat on the plane or was she on your lap?

A: I did not buy Anna a seat on the plane. At her age, she is not really able to sit in a plane seat by herself, and I did not take a car seat for her to use on the ride home. In fact, she kind of really hated her car seat when we first got home, so I was glad I didn't bother with that. When she was awake (which was not that much) we played, she sat on my lap, my mom's lap, or Abigail's lap, or we went for walks around the cabin.

Q. How did you arrange to get the bassinet on the flight?

A. I cannot tell you the procedure for any other airline, but if you are flying Ethiopian Airlines, the important thing to know is that a bassinet can be requested but cannot be confirmed until you are physically holding your boarding pass. Only 3 bassinets are available per flight. If a boarding pass has already been issued for the seats where the bassinets are, you are out of luck. So the best way to get a bassinet on ETA is to arrive about 3 hours before departure and request it at the time that you are checking in. I did this, and I had no problems whatsoever.

Additionally, the ETA website says something about age restrictions on the bassinet. Anna was 17 months, 29 inches, and 18.5 pounds at the time we traveled, and they did not question my request. She fit nicely, but if your child is more than 30" tall, they will probably be too long for the bassinet.

Q. What travel agent did you use?

A. I didn't use a travel agent. Actually, I booked online directly through the ETA website. They emailed me the itinerary and I printed out the e-ticket receipt which also had my confirmation number on it. When I checked in, I just presented my credit card and they were able to check me in without difficulty. The ETA policy actually states that they prefer that you book online. (And for me, this was the cheapest rate- much cheaper than using my travel agent. Plus, I got to book right away, and not worry about things coming in the mail!)

Before leaving the US, I did call to confirm my seats on Thursday (I left on Saturday.) On the return trip, I did not confirm my seats at all (but then, I knew I would be arriving early for my flight....) When booking online, it will request a lot of info about the travelers, but I only provided names. I figured they would let me know if they needed more info. I did receive a second, separate confirmation email that had the number for the US ETA customer service desk (571-480-5210 or 571-480-5191).

I forgot to request a child's meal for Abigail at the time that I booked, but in retrospect, I would have done that. She did eat parts of the "adult" meal, but I think she would have been happier with mac and cheese:)

Q. How the trip was for Abigail (her health, enjoyment, energy, comfort level, etc...)

A. Abigail was an amazing traveler! She did so well- so much better than I thought she was even capable of doing!

In terms of the flights, she slept well on both flights, and was over her jetlag in Ethiopia within a day or so. Coming home, I would say it has taken her about 6 days to really get "over" her jetlag and back on her normal schedule (there were about 4 mornings where she woke up at 4-5am, but she has since returned to a normal 6-7am wake-up time.)

In Ethiopia, she did quite well. She did not care for the food, so she had French fries and Fanta a lot. She also ate spaghetti and pizza, and burgers sometimes. (Note, mac and cheese in Ethiopia is made with goat cheese or something like that. Abigail did NOT like it!) I took lots of snacks and foods with me, like granola bars, oatmeal, easy mac, cheese and cracker packs, fruit snacks, etc. Abigail never went hungry, but there were days were everything she ate was pre-packaged. She is definitely glad to be back in the US and able to eat "real" (meaning home-made) food. But a week of pre-packaged food was well worth the experience of this trip!

Abigail had no problem with any of the "strangeness" of Ethiopia, like the dogs barking, the unusual public bathrooms or anything like that. More than once we did talk about begging/beggars, the health status of people on the street, and other social/economic issues. I was honest with her, in age-appropriate terms, and we prayed for a lot of people. I think there were moments when she was nervous simply because of the appearance of some of the beggars being so different than what she was used to, and she was really saddened when she saw moms with small babies begging. But overall, I think she really grasped what I was saying, and wanted to do something to help.

Abigail and Anna really bonded on the trip, and she was very helpful in taking Anna for walks around the house or playing with her when I needed to make breakfast or whatnot. Anna really loves her sister!

Q. And in regards to the new rules, how often did you get out with Anna? How was leaving her behind?

A. Because I stayed at a guest house, I was able to take placement on Monday and have Anna with me at the guest house from then on. I think she really would have been freaked out if she left the care center during the day and then had to go back at night, so I really do recommend that you stay at a guest house during your time in Ethiopia, and that you take all opportunities to get to know your child. (I was really glad I had a week of Anna time under my belt when I got on that airplane....)

There are days/times when you can be out and about with your child. For instance, on embassy day, you pretty much have to take your child to lunch in order to be at the embassy on time. I will not elaborate on when/where baby is allowed out, because the enforcement of these rules may change when the court re-opens, and I don't want to create any "well, Grace said on her blog..." :)

Since my mom and I both went, we often traded off going out and going for meals, bringing home food for the other. I did leave Anna with the caregiver from Gladney when we went to the cultural dinner. Anna was quite comfortable, and the caregiver knew her immediately when she saw her. In fact, when we got home, Anna was clean, dry, and sleeping soundly in her crib! It was quite nice!

In retrospect, I would have left Abigail with the caregiver if the situation arouse, but it did not. The caregivers have limited English, but they can certainly communicate, and with a child Abigail's age (a child able to toilet and feed themselves- and watch cartoons!) I think everyone would have been fine!

I think you will be surprised by what you see... the enforcement of these "guidelines" really falls on the individual agencies. Gladney in-country staff does a great job finding balance. I mean, when Anna was sick, there was no question that I was going to take her to the clinic and the pharmacy. I don't want to say anything to make anyone at Gladney upset (and believe me, there were a few "don't put this on your blog, but..." moments:), and I don't want to misrepresent Gladney's stance, but I will say that when you travel, this issue will become more clear.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Preview: Q&A

Here are some questions I will be answering soon:

Relating to travel...
  • Did you buy Anna a seat on the plane or was she on your lap?
  • How did you arrange to get the bassinet on the flight?
  • What travel agent did you use?

Relating to the care centers and orphanages...

  • What was the orphanage like?
  • Did they have enough toys?
  • Were the kids able to play a lot of the time or were they in their cribs a lot?
  • Were there any obvious needs?

Relating to planning and budgeting....

  • How much money did you spend while there?

Relating to the in-country staff...

  • What can they use or what do they want from the US?
  • What about the caregivers/gifts?

Do you have any questions? If so, please leave a comment or email me and I will try to respond to all of them in a future post!

Adventure: Ethiopia- Going Home

Yeah, wishing that I could return to Ethiopia soon? Not so much. At least, not in economy class!

We were able to secure the bassinet for the flight home, and it was sooooo helpful! The flight was pretty uneventful, and both girls behaved well, baring some minor meltdowns during some very tired moments. I was glad to be on US soil, though!

So, if you’ve not traveled internationally before, here are some things to know about your arrival in the US. On the airplane you will be given a blue customs card. This is the only thing you need to fill out in terms of paperwork. Keep your passport, this blue card, and baby’s sealed envelope of papers handy when you exit the plane.

For those arriving in Dulles, you will exit the terminal and take the tram/shuttle thing to the main terminal. From there you will proceed directly to the Customs and Border Patrol Inspection area (just follow the signs.) There are special lines available on the far end for US citizens. Wait in this line. When called to the window, you will need to present your blue customs card, passports for all parties entering the US (including baby), and your packet of papers. The CBP officer will request you open the packet of papers, and then will proceed to stamp the passports and paperwork with your date of entry to the US.

Next up is baggage claim. I found the US baggage claim to be faster and easier than the Ethiopian baggage claim! Load up your luggage on a cart and follow the big arrows towards the exit. Have your blue customs cards ready. You will be directed to the Immigration line. They will take all your passports, customs card, and paperwork. You sit down and wait.

*Note* If you are at Dulles, and you need to go to the bathroom, use the bathroom that will be on your left as you face the exit at the baggage claim area. Your wait in the Immigration area can vary, so use the bathroom first!

Once they review your papers, they may ask you a few questions (ie- are you bringing food into the country, etc). They keep your packet of papers and customs card, and then you are free to go! Exit the terminal and welcome to America!

I was so glad to use an American (read- sparkling!) bathroom and to stand in American (read- understandable and well-marked) lines! I didn’t realize I missed the US so much until I got here: ) I was so glad to be home!

We met up with John and loaded up the car for our 2 hour drive home. Anna really didn’t like her car seat, but I sat next to her in the back seat, and that helped. We stopped at McDonalds after about an hour because we were all hungry! Anna had her first bites of a hamburger, nuggets, fries and milkshake. She didn’t really like any of it except the fries: )

It’s hard to believe we made it home- unscathed and actually so much better as people- so much more aware, informed, and compassionate. I have so many ideas about how we can help make this world better, and I want to teach Abigail to be a “do-er” not just an imagine-er. I can’t wait to see where this path takes us next!

Adventure: Ethiopia- Day Nine

I will be honest, I thought the explosion yesterday morning was bad. Ha! Little did I know!

Last night Anna had 2 more explosions, and Abigail threw up 3 times! Oh my word. The house stunk, and there was not a clean bed to be found! Amazingly, we all survived, and everyone seems to be feeling okay.

Mom and Abigail left early to run some last minute errands and get their hair done again. Mom wanted to make sure her ‘do would last long enough for Pepaw to see it on Saturday. Abigail wanted “krinkly” hair and got all of her hair crimped! I headed to the older baby/toddler house to deliver more care packages and take more pictures. I took Anna with me. She was really freaked out last week, but this week she did so much better and even allowed the caregivers to hold her! I had a blast taking pictures, playing, and delivering gifts.

After the older baby house, we went to the baby house to deliver more packages. Imagine my surprise when we walked in and found Anna’s b-mom waiting on the steps! It seems that her ride home had not yet picked her up, so she was just waiting at the care center! I am glad for the extra time that Anna had with her, but it was very unnerving, to say the least. Ryan B. happened along, and he took care of the situation for me. I visited with more babies, but I was feeling so sick that I didn’t stay long or hold any of the kiddos (I didn’t want them to catch what I had, because let me tell you, it’s gross when there is that much stuff in your nose and sinuses!)

Anna and I headed home for lunch with Mom and Abigail, and then Anna and Mom took a nap while I headed to the older children’s house to deliver a few items and take some pictures. Abigail made a best friend:) I wish I could say more about her, but I don’t want to break any rules!

To the parents who are waiting for your babes, especially to those who trusted me with a package and the task of capturing a moment of their child’s life…

Thank you. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your journey. Thank you for sharing your child(ren) with me. Thank you for trusting me, for letting me be your arms and hands and the voice of your lullaby when you could not be there. I pray that the journey is quick for you, from this point on, and that each step of the process will help you fall more deeply in love with your child. They are beautiful, precious children, and I cannot wait to seem them united with their loving families!

So, 13 care packages later, I was pooped, and had the great job of going home and packing half-dry puke and vomit clothes. Jealous much? I thought so. But pack I did. I know some people had questions about how I re-packed, since I didn’t have a vacuum to suck all the air out of my air bags.

First, I packed all of the souvenirs so that I could pad them with clothing and such. Then I loaded some air bags with the dirty clothes we had. I zipped the top most of the way closed, then compressed the bags to get the air out even more, and finished zipping them. They were not as compact as when I used a vacuum, but it did shrink things down a bit, and definitely contained the dirt and odor. I ended up using the 3 rolling suitcases I brought with me, 2 canvas duffle bags, and packed 2 of the rolling carry ons to be checked. (Since I had 3 seats and the baby, I could check 7 items without difficulty.) I ended up carrying on the diaper bag for the baby’s stuff, Abigail’s small backpack for her fun stuff, my backpack for the electronics (laptop, camera) and one rolling carry on for general travel stuff (neck pillows, snacks, a few books- because I would probably have time to read on the plane, right?) I used zipties to lock the luggage.

We finished off our dinner just as it was time to leave for the airport. (Our flight left at 10:15pm, but Anbes suggested getting there at least 3 hours early to ensure we got a bassinet.)

As we drove through the streets of Addis for the last time, tears came to my eyes. I was overwhelmed with emotions- my own sadness in saying goodbye to a place and people I had come to love, yes. But more so, the sadness of Anna saying goodbye to the only country she had ever known. It was sad that she could not understand that this was the last time she would watch the goats scamper across the streets, but it was even sadder that she would never remember those goats, and she would never remember the way she loved to look at them and giggle.

I wish I had taken more pictures and videos of the way life is in Ethiopia. Those moments where people are living, unaware that they are being watched. The goats and sheep and oxen in the road. The masses of people and cars and animals waiting on the sides of the streets for a break in the chaos that they call traffic. The farmer in the middle of the Ayat neighborhood.

As we drove past the “Hip Hop Biscuit” billboard (the first one my mom and I read when we arrived), it occurred to me that the next billboard I would see would be in the US, near Dulles… and that Anna would see that billboard, too… I was overcome again with the reality that she is my daughter and I get to take her home with me.

And I hoped that I would return to Ethiopia soon.

Adventure: Ethiopia- Day Eight

Wowsers! I think my child was the only one in our group who was not having diarrhea, but thanks to those antibiotics, that has changed! We had a major explosion this morning and Anna got her first bath. She loved the bath, but man, did she have to create such a stink bomb just so she could get a bath?

She was still not feeling 100%, so we hung out at the house and had a slow morning. Anna’s appetite picked up (since I am sure she had nothing left in her guts after the morning explosion!) and she ate well with breakfast. We wanted to play outside, but it was raining!

For lunch, we met Ryan B. and M&R at the Beer Garden Inn. Delicious! I had the fish and chips, and was brave enough to actually eat the salad (took my Pepto first:) Everything was great, and the slight queasiness that I felt had more to do with the impending birthmom visit than the lunch.

After lunch, we met Anna’s birthmother. It was a very emotional time for everyone. I had no idea what to expect, but I am so thankful that b-mom wanted to share. She was so open and clearly loves Anna, while at the same time she is happy and relieved that Anna is now with our family. I really learned a lot about her and have so much to share with Anna when she gets older, including some very precious pictures and videos. I am so thankful for the chance to meet this lovely soul. Please join me in praying for her, as I know her grief continues.

Anbes jokingly said that I set the record for the longest b-mom visit (2.5 hours), but I guess I just didn’t know how to say goodbye- or how to ask this wonderful woman to say goodbye, for the last time, to the daughter she carried, bore, and loved for 13 months. Then (just to give you a taste of the differences in US and Ethiopian culture…) the translator/social worker asked us to give b-mom a ride to the Gladney care center (she was staying there for the night before traveled home the next day.) So that was, um, different. Thankfully, Ryan B. and Anbes took care of us, and we were not put into that uncomfortable situation!

Because we spent so much time with b-mom, we missed saying goodbye to Mer, Ryan, and Simon. We relaxed the rest of the evening and I started packing once the girls were in bed. I am definitely coming down with something (thanks for sharing the cold, Anna!) I can’t believe that tomorrow is our last day! It seems like we have only been here a day or two, but at the same time, it is amazing to see how much my Anna has blossomed in just this short week!

Adventure: Ethiopia- Day Seven

The baby had a fitful night, or rather, fitful from about 2am on. When we got up, I could tell she wasn’t feeling well, and when I took her temperature, it was 104.3! I dosed her with Tylenol and Motrin, and left my mom with Pedialyte for her (she wasn’t interested in much else) and headed off to do some errands.

Lo and behold, the Internet was STILL not working, but I did get some money changed and picked up some bread at the Hilton. I also had a pastry from the café, but just so you know, don’t bother… wait and get something at Kaldi’s! It’s cheaper and yummier!

When I got home, Anna was still running a fever. The Tylenol and Motrin did not help a bit, she was lethargic, and she was breathing at a rate of 60-70 breaths per minute. I decided to take her to the clinic. I was nervous, partially because her fever was not coming down, partially because she was dehydrated/lethargic, and partially because she had pneumonia recently, and with the fever, nasty cold symptoms (since the time of placement!), and rapid respirations, I was afraid the pneumonia might be back. And 20 hours on a plane with a sick baby did not sound like fun!

Thankfully, the drivers were great. Tefessa was closest, so he picked us up and took us to the clinic. Anbes met us there. The guys took care of the papers, tracking down the baby’s records, and all the rest. I just tried to get her to take some liquids!

I will not elaborate on the clinic experience, but I will say it was very different than what you would experience in the US. I was frustrated because I know what the US standards for fever of unknown origin are, and I know exactly what would be done if I took Anna to a US clinic with a fever that was not broken by Tylenol and Motrin. Let it suffice to say that the US protocol is quite different than the Ethiopian protocol!

Finally, they gave Anna an injection that got her fever to come down from 104 to about 101.5, so that was a lot better. The doctor said some really distressing things (ie- that Anna’s liver and spleen were enlarged and that she thought Anna has TB!) and then told me that the reason Anna was sick was because she was hungry and had a sore throat. Um, what? Then she gave me amoxicillin (okay, that’s more like it…) and told me to take Anna to the US and have them explore it more.

Wow. That was different! I won’t get into my (very extensive and upsetting) thoughts and feelings about that, but I will say it was VERY different! Thankfully, they mysterious infection that was causing Anna’s fever seemed to respond to the amoxicillin, and her fever came steadily down until she was feeling much better and much perkier. I decided at that point to switch her to soy milk because she was also constipated (poor baby.)

The clinic visit took half of forever (okay, maybe about 3 hours?) We just chillaxed the rest of the evening… or rather, mom, Abigail, and Anna chilled out, and I called my fantastic friends/physicians and made sure that we agreed about the plan of care for Anna. I was really upset by the clinic experience, and really, that was the first (and one of the very few) things I saw in Ethiopia that would make me unwilling to live there full-time.

One thing I will say is that someone did a really good job of teaching Anna to take medicine! It is useless to try to giver her medicine when she is upset, but as long as she is pretty happy, she just swallows it down! Yea for whoever taught her that!

I don’t pretend that I will get any sleep tonight… I have Tylenol and Motrin and amoxicillin to give, and breathing to listen to, and temperatures to check… so for now, good night, and hopefully everyone will be better tomorrow!

Technical Difficulties! (Please Help!)

I am trying to make a montage for you all:) But I have video clips on my hard drive (.mod movies that open in Windows Media Player) and I don't know how to save them as a different format or upload them to

Any thoughts/suggestions/tricks?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Telling it like it is

(From Faith - Grace doesn't know I'm posting this)
I just wanted everyone to know that we are all doing (relatively) OK. This is so much harder than I ever thought it would be. I had visions of going to church after the girls were in bed. (There is a great church near Grace with a conference going on that mom and I wanted to attend.) I thought our days would be filled with apple farms and playing at the park. I'm so naive!!!!! I'll have to let Grace tell you what she thinks but for me this is very hard.

I would like to ask every family that ever traveled to please forgive me for thinking that you were just too lazy to post. I am sorry! I was very selfish to want info and pictures right away. I didn't realize how hard this is. I'll know from now on how to pray for all those who travel.

Speaking of mom is leaving tomorrow. AAAHHHH!!!!! Lord help us, please.
For all of those who long until you returned to normal? (And no I didn't travel...I think it must just be sympathy exhaustion.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Adventure: Ethiopia- Day Six

Anna continues to wake me during the night. Maybe I can get someone else to take the night shift tonight? She just wakes up and isn’t satisfied no matter what you do. She doesn’t want her bottle, but she doesn’t not want her bottle…

We tried to go to the Alert Hospital to buy some things today. The drive was pretty long- Meredith and Ryan were about a half hour ahead of us since they got an earlier start, and they called to say that the shop was closed when they got there. Bummer! Anbes took us to another souvenir shop, and we picked up a few things, but I am saving the real shopping for Monday when I will go to the shop at the Gladney Office that is run by older girls who have aged out of the orphanage. I will also go to the Haile Sassile shopping center then.

We also stopped at “Misrak Bakery” (no one was there) and another coffee shop where we picked up some coffee from Anna’s native region. Anbes was explaining that Yurgalem (sp?) where Anna is from is known for the Sidamo coffee! Yum!

On the way home we picked up macchiato and pastry from Kaldi’s. So tasty! Then we all took a nap. That was fantastic!

At 3pm, Mer, Ryan, Simon, Mom, Abigail, Anna and I loaded into the Gladney van with Ryan B., Abby, Marta, Enoch, Ezra and Solomon (the driver) to go to dinner at Dreamland. The drive was long, but dinner was great and the view was beautiful. The kids had fun, and right as we were leaving, all the babies started crying! Ahhh! I don’t think I have ever been in a car with that many crying babies! Preparation for the flight home, I guess (haha.) It was nice to visit with Ryan and Abby and learn more about the process here.

To those who are still waiting, let me say this: I know it is difficult and frustrating during the wait. You have so many questions and so much seems obscure. There are no straight answers, and no one can tell you anything. I know that feeling.

As frustrating as it is, know this: it does get better. Your questions will be answered, and a lot of things that just don’t make sense based on what you are hearing in the US will be explained when you get here. It’s hard for me to tell you to just hang in there- to just trust that it will all eventually make sense, but that is the truth. It will. I promise. And in the end, no matter how hard the process is- no matter how frustrating- you will look back and nod and smile and say “yep, I would do it all again. And I would do it with Gladney at my side.” At least, that's how I feel.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Adventure: Ethiopia- Day Five

Anna tossed and turned most of the night. She was restless and just couldn’t seem to get comfortable. I finally gave in and got up with her at 7am. She got dressed, woke up her Gagie and Sissy, and we went down for breakfast. She wasn’t much up to eating, she wouldn’t go to my mom, and any small discontent was met by one of those “I am throwing myself backwards!” fits and a loud cry. Those were my clues.

I should not have been surprised when she threw up all over me at 8:15, but I was. We are not talking spit up, I mean real emesis. It was all over me. Ah, the unspeakable joys of parenthood! (Simon seemed to have a much better night than Anna- Hooray!)

Anna seemed better after she threw up, but I was still not sure, so I gave her some Pedialyte from a cup. I think she liked it, and I think she really liked drinking from a cup (we have been using bottles and sippy cups up til now.) We had a slow morning and by lunchtime we were ready to go. I tried out my Ultimate Baby Wrap for the first time. I had somewhat forgotten how to put the thing on, but once I got it right, Anna really liked being in it.

Note- if you have never used an UBW before, the key definitely is to make it snug on you. Like, really snug. Don’t worry- it will loosen up. I took Anna in and out of it a few times during the day, and I did not have to re-wrap it, but I do wish I would have wrapped it more tightly first thing in the morning. I really like the UBW, especially for a more shy/quiet child like Anna. She clearly felt pretty secure in it- both physically and emotionally, and I was comfortable, too. It was especially nice when I could use one of the shoulder parts to cradle her head when she fell asleep.

We grabbed some “take away” at Rafel on our way to the orphanages. I highly recommend this place for their sandwiches. My mom had the steak and cheese and declared it to be the best (meaning most “American” ) food she has had on the whole trip! Abigail and I had the chicken and ham. It was not what I expected, but it was tasty (Abigail was not really a fan. But then, it did not have ketchup or ranch dressing on it, so it’s not surprising that she didn’t like it too much.) Anna ate a few fries. She was looking out the window as we drove, and every time we would pass oxen, she would make this grunting/growling noise. It was hilarious! We were all cracking up and pointing out all the oxen, goats, and sheep.

I will write more about the orphanage visits at some later time. It was a lot to think about- a lot to process. Especially when you consider that the US has not had orphanages since the 1960s! My mom fell in love with several boys at Kolfe. I met at sweet little girl who stole my heart at the last orphanage we visited. Overall, it was highly emotional, and I can’t really articulate the feelings I have right now. I am going to let it brew…

We picked up more take away for dinner (my mom had a second steak sandwich from Rafel!) While we were waiting at Rafel, Anna played in my lap and was eventually sticking her whole head out the window and pointing and “talking” to the animals that were being herded on the street! She sang and did a little booty shake! At the orphanages, she was very quiet and withdrawn. I have no doubt that she understood the idea that this was an orphanage and there were no mommies, and I think she was scared we would leave her there (hence another reason for keeping her close and cuddled next to me- almost swaddled at times- in the UBW.) So it was great to see her change back into the more cute and playful girl that she is becoming each day.

We also stopped at the Hill Bottom where Abigail ordered pizza and I ordered sambusa and lamb tibs. (While on the subject, let me just say that I really liked the beef tibs I ate at the Beer Garden Inn, but the lamb tibs from Hill Bottom were, sadly, really horrible!) My mom tried the sambusa and finally found a second Ethiopian food that she likes! Now, if we go for Ethiopian, she can order sambusa and collard greens, and I can order all the other stuff, and we will be all set!

I have noticed that when Anna is just waking up or just going to sleep, she really prefers to be held by me. Any other time of day, she will go between my mom and I pretty freely, but at sleeping and waking times, she wants to be cuddled by me. In the morning it means a longer wait for that first cup of coffee, and in the evenings, it means fewer cuddles with Abigail, but I love it! I love that she really seems to understand that I am her mom. It is a great feeling!

I put Anna down in the crib and was just getting ready for bed when Abigail came in to show me all of her “bites.” Now, I have not seen a lot of insects at all: a few flies, a few spiders, a few crawly bugs. But overall, I probably see more bugs in a day at my house than I have in 5 days here. And never once have I seen or heard a mosquito. Ever. So these bites seemed very unlikely to be mosquito bites. She has them in distinct places- her lower legs and feet, and the sides of her torso, about half way up from the waist of her pants. I snapped some pictures. I have no idea what these bites could be, but I am wondering if they are some sort of bed bug? I washed them with soap and water and put some anti-itch crème on them, so we will see how they look in the morning!

Tomorrow we are going to the Alert Hospital in the morning, and to Dreamland in the evening. I am hoping to hop online at the Hilton (see how I make it sound like the Internet isn’t as slow as molasses in winter?) and change some money. Don’t let me forget to tell you about Anbes (pronounced Um-bus), our spectacular driver! When Jennifer and Jody said they got the best, they probably weren’t joking… but they hadn’t met Anbes! Can’t wait to make you crazy-jealous with all I have to say about him:)

Adventure:Ethiopia- Day Four

Okay, the crib? Big hit! Anna slept through the night, with only a few mini-fusses and coughing spells. She didn’t even need her bottle overnight! Yea! Definitely a step in the right direction.

Sadly, Momma did not sleep as well. My mind was going non-stop (probably assisted by the evening macchiato that I had!) I kept thinking that from now on, I would be introducing Abigail as my older daughter. Not just my daughter, as I used to do, but my older daughter. Because now I have 2 daughters. There are still moments where this whole thing is quite unreal.

When I finally fell asleep, I ended up having really strange dreams, so I just did not sleep well. Plus, the closet door swung open in the middle of the night, and even though I knew it was nothing, it still freaked me out! It was cool, dark, and rainy… and out of no where, a long, high-pitched squeak. Yeah, not so cool at 3am!

Simon had a good night, and he obviously is feeling much better! Hooray! He is not quite 100%, but he is well on the road to recovery! I know Meredith and Ryan are happy to see their little guy happy!

Once we finally got up and moving, I headed over to the “new” toddler house to start delivering some gifts and getting some pictures. It just so happened that the first room I stepped into had 2 babes that I did not have gifts for, but I know their parents and I couldn’t help but get some goods on them. They are both gorgeous! They bunk in the same “row” with only one baby between them, and that baby is also so beautiful! In fact, it may be the best-looking row of babies in the whole house… but it’s hard to say since all those little ones are so sweet!

I did get one gift delivered and took more pictures before Anbes whisked me away to lunch. For lunch we ate at “Family Restaurant.” They have a wide selection, but I opted for the burger. (I had the burger from Hill Bottom last night, and it was so flavored and spicy that it really didn’t fill my “burger” crave.) The burger was great, and the fries were awesome, but afterwards I had my first twinge of possible upset stomach. The feeling passed after a few hours, but still, I don’t know if I would eat there again, and if I do, I would definitely not eat there right before the embassy appointment!

It started raining during lunch, and it continued to rain most of the afternoon. We headed to the Hilton to try to confirm our flights and use the Internet. Unfortunately, the Internet was down, which meant that I could not log on, and Ethiopian Airlines could not confirm my flight! I did ask them to look into my missing purse, and they are supposed to email me to let me know if they are able to discover anything. It kind of felt like a wasted trip, especially since the traffic is so much worse in the rain!

To make up for it, my mom, Abigail and I went to do something fun! We went to the Boston Day Spa! My mom and Abigail got their hair braided, and I got a massage. Grand total for the braiding and massage was $335 ETB or about $34 USD. I thought that was a great deal! The braids are really cute, too.

My massage was good, but definitely different than American massages. Some of you may know that I have had some ongoing muscle issues in my back and butt/leg. The massage really reminded me of how much better some parts are and how much worse others are. When she touched my back, I almost cried. “Hurt?” she said. “Yes, a little,” I replied. “You have very much strong stress in back, You come back every week to make go away.” I sooooooo wish!

We stopped at the grocery and for a to-go macchiato, and then we headed home to our girl. We visited with Meredith, Ryan, and Simon. Then Ryan made a delicious pasta dinner and we had some fresh bread from the store. Yum! For dessert, we all had a Rice Krispie Treat bar and my mom popped some popcorn. The babies were both playful and talkative, and it was nice to spend time together. I sorted through the pictures I took this morning, and then I got to watch the video that they took for me when I took placement of Anna.

Oh my word, that girl has changed! In just 3 short days, she has totally come out of her shell! She babbles, screeches, and cries. She laughs and kisses and chases Abigail around the house. She has moments where no one but Momma will do (especially when she first wakes up) but by the end of the day, she is definitely torn between the silliness of Gaga, the boisterousness of big sissy, and the cuddles of Momma.

On a slightly off-topic note, I have an idea I would like to toss out here and see what you, beautiful Ethiopian adoption community, can do. I know that in the right hands, this idea could really go far and benefit many people, and I would really like to follow through on it.

I would guess that at least half of us that adopt end up needing some form of child care. I know I will need it! I know, too, that it is expensive, and center-based care doesn’t always work with my schedule. I have been looking into an au pair as well as nanny options.

At the same time, Gladney reps are in close contact with many young women who are aging out of the Ethiopian orphan care system. These are girls who have some education and no real skills/trade, but they know how to care for children, cook, clean, etc. They need an opportunity- a chance to pursue education, gain experience as an employee, while at the same time learning the life skills that they have not yet been taught, such as money management, budgeting, home living, and community/society involvement. How would these girls know how to budget money or how to choose which items should be stored in the refrigerator when they have not ever seen those skills in action? How will the know how to register to vote- or register for college courses? How will they learn to become involved in their community when much of what they have experienced has been institutional life?

Do you see where I am going with this?

I can’t wait to get home and see what can be done with some US-based au pair agencies or nanny agencies. I have not done a lot of research, but it seems that the most difficult issue would be gaining a visa. I know that this can happen if the word is put out to the right people, my wonderful community of adoptive/Internet friends… hook me up!

Here’s hoping for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow we visit the orphanages.

Adventure: Ethiopia- Day Three

Another busy day!

Anna did very well overnight, only waking up once at about 2:45am and staying up for about an hour before she could get more comfortable and fall asleep.

This morning we went to the baby house. We enjoyed the coffee ceremony, and Anna’s special caregiver (they refer to the primary caregiver as the “mother”) came to see her and give her a special gift! Anna looked so cute dressed up in her traditional Ethiopian outfit! Of course, the head wrap came right off! This girl does not like things on her head- but she does like sunglasses!

After the coffee ceremony, we spent some time touring the baby house. There are probably 30+ babies in the baby house. I recognized some who had been referred! Others are just waiting on the mandatory 60 day wait period for relinquished children, blood work, paperwork, and such before they can be referred. Meantime, Abigail was outside helping with the laundry! There were so many little baby outfits, onesies, and socks!

After the baby house, we walked over to the “old” older baby house. This house is in the process of relocating to another house across the street; a few of the rooms had moved, but one room of toddlers remained. Here I saw many children I recognized, and a few that I don’t think have been referred (trying to figure out how to bring them home with me. I could fit a few in my carry on bags, right?) There are a few in particular who are just toooooo sweet for words, and I really might have to start the process for a baby boy before too long! I got to see the bed that was Anna’s- I definitely recognized it from the pictures I had been sent! There was already a new child to take that spot! The caregivers all knew Anna, too, and their smiles when they saw her were great!

We were short on time so we went to the “new” older baby house (again, lots of familiar faces!) but we did not have time for the older children house. I cannot wait to go back and deliver care packages and take pictures! I plan to go tomorrow morning- just as soon as Anbes drops off my camera which I left in the trunk of his car! In the mean time, I have gotten a bag ready to go for tomorrow morning. I have care packages, my book of pictures/names/family names of babies, and camera stuff ready to go! Just need my camera!

Anna was definitely upset by our visits this morning. She was uneasy at the baby house, and would not let any of the caregivers take her (she had a death grip on me.) Once we all settled down and were visiting while the coffee beans roasted, she came out of her shell a bit and was walking between my mom and I. But when her caregiver came in to change her clothes, she had to pull her off of me! I thought she was going to burst out crying, but she held it together and just needed lots of cuddles and snuggles to get over the trauma of separation!

It was being at the “old” toddler house and her old room that really upset her. She became very overwhelmed and wouldn’t even look at the caregivers! She wouldn’t even go to my mom! It was horrible to see her so distraught, but it was great knowing that she wanted to be with me and didn’t want to stay in the care center. I held her close the whole time and tried to visit with the other children, but she didn’t really like that either. When we left the care centers and went to lunch (she came with us because the next stop was the embassy appointments) she fell asleep in the car and slept through most of lunch. I think she was experiencing a bit of shock and really needed to use sleep as her coping mechanism. I am going back and forth on if I should take her with me to the care center tomorrow. On the one hand, it is nice because she gets to get out of the house and I know the care givers would really like to see her some more. On the other hand, it is not worth the emotional trauma!

We had lunch at “Top View” restaurant, which overlooks the city. The view was great! The manicotti was good, although it was more of a crepe than a noodle. Abigail didn’t care too much for the kid’s burger, but she did like the fries. My mom struck gold with the chicken shish kabob. Oh my word! So tasty! More than the food and the view, it was really nice to have all the traveling families together, and to be there as families, with our babies (side note, Anna is the only girl in our travel group, which I didn’t realize until today.) Even though my arm was almost asleep from holding her during the meal, it was just so fulfilling to be visiting with the other families, over the cry of the little babies and the silliness of the older babies.

Our next stop was the embassy. Anna was a wake for the drive, and I think she was a little bit overwhelmed. The embassy was no big deal, although it would be best for you not to wear a belt or have change in your pocket as you have to go through several metal detectors. The baby slings/wraps did not cause any problems. It is also good to leave any electronics in the car (hence my camera is in Anbes’ trunk!) Anyone who wants into the embassy must have their passport with them, so if your kids or the grandparents are traveling with you, make sure they bring their passport along for this trip! You are also told to bring your “paperwork” which includes things like copies of taxes, a recent pay stub, etc (detailed in the travel packet supplied by Gladney) although no one asked to see any of my additional papers.

When they called my name, I went to the window and answered a few questions (ie- do you know what happened to the birth mom? The birth dad? When did the baby come into care? Is this the child that was referred to you?) I did have one small mishap- instead of having my first name as Anna’s middle name on her birth certificate, it had my middle name as her middle name on her birth certificate. The woman at the embassy was concerned at first, but then she asked if I would be re-naming the baby in the US (yes) so she said it would not be a big deal. So, legally, Anna is Misrak Leighann right now!

We shared some small talk while the gal behind the window finished some paperwork and presented me with some papers. It was not stressful at all, and even with this minor issue, I did not feel as though I was being “grilled” or anything. Ryan and Philip collected all the papers that the embassy presented to me and will make copies for me. They will also pick up the visa on Friday, and present me with the packet of Anna’s info to give to immigration when we arrive in the US.

Our embassy appointments were at 3pm, and we got back into the car at 3:54pm, so really, it was not that long (despite the stories of hours of waiting that I have heard!) There is a bit of a walk from the area where the drivers are allowed to park to the actual embassy (and it is uphill on the way back!) so it would be a good thing to take a wrap/sling for this trip.

On the way home from the embassy, we stopped for a to-go macchiato from Kaldi’s (Ethiopian Starbucks). Delicious! I highly recommend the macchiatos here- I have not had a bad one yet! Once home, we decided to have a night in, and Ryan and I walked over to the Hill Bottom to pick up some burgers for dinner. (Note, a burger with cheese is a cheeseburger. A burger without cheese is just a burger. Do not call it a “hamburger” because they will think you want ham on the burger!) The burgers were definitely seasoned and a bit spicy, plus they had peppers on them, so they were not a hit with Abigail. I did eat mine, but it gave me heartburn, so just be warned. The fries were great! Actually all the fries I have had so far have been very good- crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and very potato tasting. I also made some “just add water” chicken noodle soup which definitely hit the spot for my mom and Abigail who were craving something more “American.” Anna liked it, too!

During the afternoon and evening, Anna really seemed more fussy than normal, and she was pulling at her ears. I checked her temp and it was just a touch of a fever, so I decided to give her some medicine before I put her down for the night. I don’t know if it was the medication or just the fact that she was exhausted, but for the first time, Anna drank her bottle then let me take it away so that she fell asleep with no bottle! We rocked a bit, and that was it: out like a light! She even slept through me moving her into her crib.

Abigail was been very helpful through all of this, and when I mentioned going out tomorrow afternoon, just me and her, she chimed in “and my sister, too!” I think there are moments when it is difficult for her to share the attention, but overall, she is doing great! She has eaten most of her food (or had the old stand-by PBJ sammy) at all the meals, and she has been a good listener and helper. While we were getting dinner ready, she played outside with Waguyu’s family and “helped” do their laundry. I am so proud of her. She can really make Anna laugh, too!

I head from my sister that a few people have gotten referrals. If you have gotten a referral and would like me to take pictures of your baby while I am here, please email my sister, Faith, ( with the baby’s name, gender, age and location (baby house, older baby house, etc) if known, and I will see what I can do! Be sure to put “Gladney Referral Photo Request” or something like that in the subject so that she knows it’s not spam.

I am going to let Anna sleep in her crib tonight. She tends to be a kicker, and I have a knot the size of Texas in my back, so I think it would be best if we had our own space. If she wakes up, we can cuddle and sleep together, but I am almost thinking that she might do better sleeping alone in her crib, especially since she is not feeling well. I will let you know how it goes!