Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fit (Edited)

Both of my children are throwing fits right now. Because I served home-made beef stew for dinner.

Methinks we are NOT going trick-or-treating tonight.*

Methinks me needs some chocolate.




* In Hershey, we never trick-or-treat on Halloween. It's always a day or 2 before. Something about reducing the vandalism and the number of drunk driving accidents.

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!




Tuesday, October 28, 2008

December 20....




Most of you know that I have been trying to complete my BSN over the course of the past 2 years. I am set to graduate on December 20. I already started my application to my Master's program. My parents have tickets to come out and watch me walk.

The problem is, unless I kick some serious bootay in my present courses during this week and next, I may not get caught up in time to graduate this semester. Which would stink. But I am just so tired, and have so many things on my mind (like, how I really need to get the ball rolling with the re-adoption thing and Abigail's upcoming birthday party and, well, you know, the piles of laundry and stuff...)

So, can you please pray for me? I thought it was hard to focus on school when I was waiting for my referral and court date... little did I realize that it would be so much harder to focus when we got home. Please pray that I can just finish these classes and have them done. I know I am more than capable of doing the work- I just need to stick to it and do it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Facial Fun(gus)

On Thursday I thought I felt a pimple on my cheek, right where my cheek meets my ear. It was raised, but I didn't think much of it. By Friday it was itching like mad. I wondered where I could have gotten a mosquito bite this late in the year. By Friday night, the skin felt funny under my finger... rough and scaly. So I investigated further (this is actually a really difficult part of your face to see. Go try it.)

I got a good look, and immediately washed my hands. I couldn't wait for John to come over to confirm my suspicions.

Let me tell you, John and I do enjoy a fair amount of "insult humor." We know the things that each other is sensitive about, and we don't joke about those things. But he teases me about having big feet (I really do) and I tease him about having a big head (figuratively, and only a bit literally.) He teases me about not being able to hear, and I tease him about having the world's worst diction (you won't believe the things I thought I heard him say!) He makes fun of my best friend and my profession. I make fun of his tummy and his laundry laziness. He's been known to use terms like Chili-zit. I told him he had a boogerstache.

But really, I think he topped them all on Friday after examining my face. It's not often that you get to hear the man you love, the man who wants you to bear his children, the man who has told you that you have the face of an angel - tell you that you have ringworm. And it's even less often that he tells you by saying...

"Yep, you've got a fungus on your face."

I gave him a mean look and he then assured me that it was a hot fungus. That really did not help the situation at all (but I do appreciate the effort.)

The best part (and by best part I mean the part that really made me want to bang my head against a wall) was when he proceeded to make jokes about my fungi. Including this one:

"Hey, grace, since it's on your face, does that make it a fun-gal?"

I moaned.

In all seriousness, how does one go about getting ringworm on that particular area of their body? I can only think that I must have laid on something. Oh, bother.

Sign Language

So, Anna is able to speak. I have heard her say several different words. She routinely says about 7 words, but I have heard many others. She just chooses to not consistently use words to communicate.

So, we are learning sign language. Right now she knows the signs for "more," "eat/hungry" and "drink/thirsty." She is working on the sign for "thank you" but more often than not this comes out as blowing kisses (hey, it's similar!) I have used the sign for "stop" but she usually responds to the tone of my voice more than the sign.

The next signs I will teach her are sleep, please, and help. What other signs do you recommend?

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?

October Happenings

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Recipe Exchange **Edited**

I was just a part of a recipe exchange, and of course, then had to forward the email to friends who should, in turn, reply with a recipe to a friend of mine, then forward to their friends, who reply with a recipe to me (you know how it goes.)

The idea is to share your fast/easy recipe so that we can all build a mental recipe box full of easy, no-difficult/rare ingredients- no recipe card needed type recipes.

Here are the 3 I passed on (it only calls for one, but I use these three a lot as any long-time reader of this blog will know- I'm sure you've seen the green bean recipe before!)


Ranch Potatoes

Wash and quarter 2 lbs of small red potatoes (or use whatever potatoes you have around the house, cut into 1" cubes)

Toss in 1/4 C. olive oil

Add 3 T. (one packet) Hidden Valley Ranch Mix (powder) and toss again.

Turn out into pan and bake on 450 for 35 minutes.

Easily doubles or triples! Get the kids to help by putting potatoes into large ziplock bag and toss in oil and ranch mix.


Easy and Fast Pasta Sauce

2 cans (15 oz. each) of Hunts tomato sauce
dash of salt and pepper
spices (garlic powder, onion powder, basil, oregano) to taste

Combine above ingredients and bring to simmer. If you have time, substitute diced and browned onion and garlic.

Easily doubles. Less than half the cost of a jar of pasta sauce. Great for baked pasta dishes, too!



Parmesan Green Beans
(great for a fast and inexpensive side-dish/ vegetable with dinner- and gets kids to eat their green beans, too!)

2 cans French cut green beans, drained (these "hold" the cheese better)
pad of butter
1-2 T. olive oil
salt to taste
garlic powder to taste
grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/8 to 1/4 C. depending on how you like it)

Melt butter in fry pan. Add olive oil and heat. Add green beans and saute in butter/oil mix. Add spices and Parmesan cheese and saute until cheese gets melty.

Serve with a bit more fresh Parmesan on top.


Have any easy recipes you want to share?

Here are some recipes from my sister. They are freezer recipes, which definitly can be helpful in a bind or are great if you want to take a new mom or ill friend a meal:)

I have selected two {ok, so I only tried two so far} recipes from momsbudget.com freezer recipes. I like to use freezer recipes because I can cook ahead. Because I am single I also like to make a portion and freeze half.

Chicken Enchiladas Freezer Recipe http://www.momsbudget.com/freezerrecipes/chickenenchiladas.html

Chicken Chili Casserole Freezer Recipe http://www.momsbudget.com/freezerrecipes/chickenchili.html

The casserole does have a lot more ingredients but it really is very good. YUM!

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

One Week...

I hate to go and ruin a good thing by bragging about it, so don't consider the following any attempt at bragging but rather a statement of facts about how we are doing...

  • Anna has been off the bottle for 2 weeks
  • Anna has completed her course of medication, and I am pretty sure she still has giardia.
  • Anna has been sleeping through the night for 1 week (that is 7 consecutive nights of sleep, people! Hooray!)
  • Anna has been taking an after-lunch nap for 1 week (and even went down for her nap today without me laying down with her!)
  • Anna has been enjoying morning preschool for a week. And when I say "enjoying" I mean having a blast!

I had a lot of nervousness about starting her in preschool- all the adoption advice, of course, says to avoid putting your child into daycare, and I know there are some of you who are reading this right now and tisking me....

But this was right for our family on so many levels. Of the many faults our family has, one blessing we have been given is the wonderful attachment and bonding that has taken place so quickly. Anna knows I am her Momma, and while she has typical toddler separation anxiety, she "gets it" that I am going to come back. In addition, Anna (like Abigail) is really social, and I think she really enjoys being around other kids. They wear her out like you wouldn't believe (hence the sleeping through the night and awesome afternoon nap thing!) and she is always "dancing" when I pick her up. This has also given me some time to try to get caught up on the month of school that I missed (I am so thankful that this is my last semester!)

But, of course, Anna is not the only "A" (or A+ as I think of them:) in my family. Abigail has proven herself to be such a wonderful big sister and great helper over the past week. She loves to play with Anna (until Anna destroys something) and is always offering to play with or read to Anna. Abigail is also doing well in school and did great on her recent assessments. Her reading skills have skyrocketed in the past 1-2 weeks, and I enjoyed listening to her read to me- and from a whole new selection of books that she brings home from the library each week (I think she knows how bored I get reading the same 5 books of ours that she loves, loves, loves:)!

I have even seen a her changing in those intangible, character-centered ways... especially as we talk about her upcoming birthday and Christmas. She hasn't totally lost the sense of "I want..." but I think she has so much more of a real distinction between "wants" and "needs" and it is great to see how quickly she is able to make that distinction herself. She has also become much better about sharing. These things I attribute to our time in Ethiopia.

I am so blessed by these girls.

And I promise to get some pictures up soon!

txt

I heart Yahoo txt-ing. I don't even need to know where my phone is to send a text message.

Seriously, how great is that?

Promises

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.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Adoption-speak

Me: Do you like this new recipe for potatos, Abigail?

Abigail: Oh, I love it!

Me: That's great!

Abigail: I don't just love it, Momma... I'm attached to it.

Thanks, Ruthie!

Ruthie just posted about something you might be interested in if you have little girls who will be wanting braids and twists and corn rows.

I am sure this was partially inspired by my cluelessness when it comes to Anna's hair.

Here is what I have decided:

1. Anna's hair type is the classic, tightly curled and coarse hair that many associate with black hair. People (black and white) have called it "nappy" if you are still unsure of what hair type I mean. This is only one of many types of hair that I saw in Ethiopia, but in general, I would say this is the most difficult type of hair when your child is young.

2. I am vehemently against using chemicals on my young child's hair. I wouldn't perm or color Abigail's hair, why would I straighten Anna's hair? It is not good for them in terms of hair health, and even more, it sends a message that they are not good enough the way God made them. I never want to give that message to my children, ever, even in subtle ways.

3. I am very interested in "natural" hair and finding natural (non-chemical, non-extensions) ways of styling Anna's hair.

4. Anna does not yet have enough hair to do much of anything with. She has about 1" of "snapback" (I think I am using that term properly?) I have some head wraps and head bands that she wears (until she rips them off- without fail, every time we are in the car!) They will do for now.

5. When she has enough hair to do things with, I think I can manage some puffs. I will take her to a salon that knows what to do with her hair type and ask them to teach me different things that I can do without using chemicals or heat. I am also interested in learning about braiding and twists- but of course, that will have to wait until Anna gets some hair!

6. I have not ruled out Sisterlocks. I know it is permanent and the only way to get rid of the locs is to cut them off. I know that hair can be damaged when worn in Sisterlocks. However, I also think that until such a time as Anna can fully care for her hair independently, I am going to be the one caring for her hair, and so I will be the one making decisions about her hair style (just like I do with Abigail who is still not yet capable of caring for her own hair.) I am not dead-set on Sisterlocks, but it is something I would like to explore more and learn about so that when Anna does have enough hair to make it a viable option, I will know what I want to do. I realize Sisterlocks are not "maintenance free" and do in fact require quite a bit of upkeep... so we will have to see what is right for our family when the time comes.

7. Until then, Anna's hair combs out much more easily when wet. And she still loves to rub food in it. Wishing that particular fascination of hers would subside.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

It's that time again....

I am trying to plan a birthday party for Abigail, and again, I cannot get over how expensive things are!

She wants to go to a really fun (but really EXPENSIVE) place. I don't care where she goes as long as the price is within my budget (which her first choice is not...)

She wants to invite everyone. I don't care how many people we invite as long as it's within my budget.

She wants to have her party during her sister's nap time. I don't care when the party is as long as it's within my budget.

She wants to have a sleepover with 15 other 6 year old girls (and boys if she can sneak them in.)

I put my foot down on that one.

T.I.E. (Proceed with Caution)

WARNING!

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 14, 2008

A Hairy Situation

I ran into my friend Pamela at gymnastics. She is a lovely lady from Nigeria, and her girls are so cute! (Her baby is one day older than my baby!)

I consulted her regarding my Anna-hair woes. I am more of a hands-on learner, so I thought live-action advice might be best:) She explained that while the little hair "knots" would not really tangle with each other, the hair within the knot would tangle with itself, and that is why the combing was necessary.

She suggested that with Anna's particular hair type, I should use a pick and "pick" out the hair. So, 30 minutes, 1/4th of a bottle of detangler, and 29 minutes of crying later, Anna's hair has been picked out. That was horrible, and I am eager to find a way to avoid having to do that.

Which brings me to the idea of Sisterlocks. I love them, and they look like a great style for a girl with Anna's hair type. I think it is basically the only way I can ever let Anna's hair get long (and let's face it, little girls- and big ones- like long hair). Plus, there are no chemicals, which I love!

I know it is a commitment- there is no going back from Sisterlocks- there is only starting over. But I feel like if ever there was a time to Sisterlock, it's while she is young.

What are you thoughts?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Help Needed: Hair *Edited*

So, Anna has these little curls covering her head. They are very tightly curled, and it's shocking when you stretch the curl out and discover that the little 1/8 " fuzz covering her head is actually well over an inch long. The curls sit like little buns or knots on her head, and from far away, and in certain lights, her head appears to be covered in polka dots:)

The hair care itself- well, I got that. We tend to have to "wash" (ie- rinse in the bath with warm water- we only shampoo about once every 10 days) her hair several times a week because someone is fond of rubbing food and snot in their hair, but we always wash, condition, and use a leave-in conditioner. We also use a lotion/leave-in conditioner (with jojoba oil and coconut oil) daily. Her hair seems to be in good condition- shiny, no dandruff, and not breaking. In fact, she even appears to be growing hair over the spot where she had previously had a bad fungal infection (yea!)

But here's my thing: other than keep it clean and moisturized, what am I supposed to "do" with her hair? I mean, there is no way I could comb it- the curls are WAY too tight- I tried it once, and even being gentle, putting conditioner on first, and using a wide-tooth comb, I couldn't get the comb to budge without really pulling her scalp. And even without combing it, the hairs seem to slip out of the curl/buns and create a lot of frizz. Am I doing something wrong? Or is this just the way her hair is?

Also, what can I expect as her hair grows out? Will it stay in those tight curl/buns? Will I ever be able to put clips or ponytails in it? I admit it- I am clueless about this. Nothing I've ever read about black hair prepared me for this type of hair. Help me out!

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 06, 2008

Woof

I have decided that the only way I can keep up with Anna's meal-time messes is by getting a living vacuum, um, I mean dog, who really enjoys eating toddler food off the floor.

Because really, I think adding another ounce of chaos to our lives would be good for my family!

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.

Goin' to Gatlinburg

My impending trip to Gatlinburg is appearing slightly more manageable after having 3 nights in a row of actual sleep! Like, 8 consecutive hours of sleep!

We are still trying to figure out the nighttime/naptime sleep pattern, but at least we are sleeping at night! Both of us! Yea!

So, anyone want to get together in/around Gatlinburg?

Saturday, October 04, 2008

T minus 4

Um, T minus 4 days until we leave on an 8 hour (9 according to mapquest) road trip to Tennessee for John's sister's wedding.

Yes, 8 to 9 hours with an 18 month old and a not quite 6 year old.

We rented a minivan, have a portable DVD player, and plan on driving late into the night so that the girls will be asleep for part of the trip. But still, 8 hours.

I don't really like road trips, especially when you have the pressure to keep 2 kids entertained. If something is more than 4 hours away, I fly. It's so much faster, easier, and more comfortable. But John said we are road-trippin', so I guess we are....

What are your suggestions for making this trip more bearable (especially since we are driving those same 8 hours home- during daylight hours.)

Friday, October 03, 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

Veg

Sometimes, I amaze Anna with my ability to sing every single Veggie Tales song on the CD.

Also, I think that I have Anna convinced that I am the best. dancer. ever.

Thursday, October 02, 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.
~Faith
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