Monday, August 27, 2012

Seamless Transition

"it is so, so rare that I see a child who transitions so seamlessly" -- these, my friends were the words of our social worker at our first post-adoption visit.  I was all smiles, all day.   As I told Tony, yes - I knew she was doing good.  But to hear it from a professional, that made it so much more real!

(and in answer to the question I am getting quite frequently - 'why more home study visits, she isn't yours yet?  can they still take her away?'  NO.  She is legally ours, although we needed this homestudy report to re-adopt in the states to change her name to Olivia as it is still Selamawit legally.   The visits are more to check on us and see if we have any questions, need any support - and more importantly - will be sent on to Ethiopia to let them know their child is in a loving home.)

Our social worker also kept saying "I am just in shock!" at her bonding, her words, her following any direction we gave her.   And I think we have been a little in shock as well.   And don't think for a second this is due to us being great parents, because there are tons of parents way more patient and wise than Tony and I who are still having difficulties adjusting with their little ones.  I just think God knew that we needed an easy adoption, as I had thrown enough temper tantrums during the 3 years leading up to her!  I think he may have been tired of hearing me whine.   

So back to our rare child... and rare she is!! 
(these facts are more for my future reference than yours but feel free to read on or scroll down for some videos of our little ham!)

- At one day in my care, she would not go to my sister or mom and would scream outside my bathroom door or at the door of the shower.   How did she know I was hers and not my sister??
- On day two, she pulled away from the nannies who have been taking care of her for 5 months when they reached for her.

At 4 months:
- she is toddling - everywhere!   Climbing steps, sitting on her bum to scoot back down them.    Climbing up on stairs.
- she is eating - everything!  Fruit, pasta, pieces of meat, some veggies.
- she is signing - A TON!   She is using the signs:  milk, dog, eat, cold, bird, water, music, butterfly, please, cookie, sleep.   And for the first time today, looked at me and signed "LOVE + YOU"!!!
- she is talking - ALOT.   She can say on her own:  dada, mama, (ba)nana, Addi, Nana, cookie, baby, water, up, down, Papaw, dog, no, ow, diaper, hat, hot, hello (for the phone), book, bath.

- I kinda gave her a speech test to see where she ranked and she was above average.  At 2 months home :)

Lil sis is just so, so much fun.  And so, so loud.   Her words are loud enough for the neighbors to hear.   ESPECIALLY in a restaurant or church.   If it's quiet - she feels it is her duty to be loud.  

We have still seen a little bit of 'adoptive child' reactions but they are getting better.  She was originally scared to death of average sized men.  She would climb me like a scared cat if a young guy came in the room.   This hasn't happened in a while.   She had done great for 2 Sundays in the church nursery so on visit #3 I didn't check on her after 5 min of her doing fine.   I came back to find her doing her 'sniffling' really, really upset cry.   The remainder of that week she was SO clingy and didn't want me to leave the room.    And she is sort of that way after a week of me working a lot.  In the evenings, she just wants me to hold her - which is kind of hard with 3 others who have homework and need to eat.   Showers have gotten better with her now sitting at my feet vs. screaming at my feet to be picked up.  Ever try washing your hair with one hand and a toddler on your hip??  Not the easiest thing ever!!

Here are a couple videos to make you smile :)  Cause we do most of the day and we ought to share a little....

Sunday, July 22, 2012

'You outta write a book....'

.... except for the minor fact that I haven't been able to effectively write a simple blog post since bringing home Lil' Olivia - much less start a huge undertaking such as a book.    Lil' Miss HATES the computer.   If I sit down in front of one, it doesn't matter what she was doing - her mission is to do her little drunk lady walk over to me and whine to be picked up. 

But, I've now been told I should write a book around 7 times in the last several months.   Usually it is right after I hear the question 'What made you decide to adopt from Ethiopia?' and I commence to exhibit diarrhea of the mouth with my 5 minute prepared service announcement regarding how we got on and sailed down (in the rough waters) our path of adoption and God's provision on getting us there.. See 'our story' to the right for said announcement.

(oh, and 8 people if you count Braeden, out of the blue, telling me I should write a children's book.  Which is a little more tempting as 10 lines vs. 4,587 lines just seems a little easier...)

SO.  With that said - I am here to make amends and write a simple blog post.   Just to show myself I still can.  

Olivia and the last 2 months --- what can I say besides amazing, miraculous, surprising??

To adopt we (as in me) had to read a couple books (and then give Tony the Cliff notes version), take a web course, and go through about 12 hours of training with our social worker.   Nothing prepared me for our little princess..  because she is completely a horse of a different color.   So far anyway.

Princesses First Birthday Pics - 1 Month HOME

I expected long nights of her up screaming and refusing to be comforted by us.  Kicking or pushing us away.   I didn't expect, from night one, her searching for us and waking just to make sure we were still there.   Wanting us to pick her up and cuddle her back to sleep.

Our Gotcha Day - May 7th, 2012 

I expected battles over food with bottles and spoons being pushed away.  I didn't expect this child to eat anything I put in front of her.  Even salmon cakes.   And spinach.   And no, you do not need to call DSS on me.  I've given her french fries and she had her first taste of cotton candy yesterday as well thankyouverymuch.

I expected the need to 'cocoon' and limit our outings for a couple months.  I didn't expect her to be completely at ease at church, sleepovers out of state, at the beach or movies.   As long as we are near her, she is at home and perfectly content to be there.    Now those first few days, me walking into the bathroom or shower resulted in complete melt-downs.   And I currently still usually have a little one at my feet in the shower or face to face with me while I'm in the bathroom.   A little TMI?  Hey, every mother reading this knows what I'm talking about!

Our happy little American citizen in Washington, DC

I expected the need to make sure we were the only ones to comfort her, feed her, attend to her needs.  The need to make sure she knows that WE are her mommy and daddy.  And not every other adult.   I didn't expect her to reject the nannies on our second day of having her, or push away from every Ethiopian that spoke to her on the plane.   I didn't expect her to plaster herself against me when someone puts out their arms to hold her.   Or to now, 2 months later, be comfortable enough to go to others for brief moments before wanting me again.

Our airport welcome crew, minus the photographers I absolutely love for dragging their children 2 hours just to show us some love - Keely and Farrah.

I guess my biggest surprise is how I expected how HARD the adjustment would be.   But once again, God showed me that 'He's got this'.   He knew that with 3 other kids, and my lack of the patience he had been trying to teach me the last 3 years - I might need a tiny bit of 'simple'.   If you can say mothering 4 children is simple.   (I expect the tougher times to begin hitting around this time next year at age 2.)  And yes, we have had the adjustment of getting up earlier, adjusting to a new baby and all the related paraphernalia..  but really, it's just like we woke up on May 13th, the morning after we came home - and our one year old baby was standing up with her cheesy grin in the crib beside us.   As if she had been there forever.   She knows we are hers, and we know she is ours.   And it just fits perfectly and is more beautiful than I could describe in a simple blog post anyway.  
Miss Personality at 10 days home.

As a post script, let me say that NOT all adoptions work out this simply at first.   And it doesn't mean they aren't God-willed.  And it doesn't mean that they are any less of a parent than I am or that their precious new one is any less of an angel than ours.   It just means that God knew they had more patience than I and could handle the more complicated cases while we still needed the preschooler's course in adoption.  

Saturday, June 30, 2012

30-some years old

In the early hours of my 30-somethingish birthday,  someone may have over-indulged on my brew of choice and drank a little too much Mt. Dew with her cheap pizza tonight.   A party animal I am..

So reflection/confession time. 

Things you may not know about me:
  • I HATE my birthdays.  Like really hate.   I don't know why but I am so uncomfortable with the attention and would rather the day went by unnoticed.   I think it is because having a summer birthday, most of my friends were usually at the beach and it was all the expectation of presents or 'Happy Birthday, I just miss you soooo much!' calls that never came and the downer after.  
  •  I also HATE singing the 'Happy Birthday song'.  My children have been blessed to have their Daddy sing it or it would never be started and nobody would know when to blow the blasted candle out.   Thank goodness I make really, like really, good cakes.
  • I have yet to see a psychiatrist for my Happy Birthday phobia.   And I'm dealing with it fine, thank you very much.
  • Voted 'most changed since junior high as I went from a homely little one who was said to look like 'a little owl' and had never been given a boy's Swatch watch to wear (HUGE let-down in the day), to the Vice President of Student Council.
  • Worked at Sonic as a car-hop, without the skates.   It was required I learn in 2 weeks after hiring but after falling on my tail too many times, I risked firing as I turned my white skates in with a 'no thank you note'.    Thank goodness I was hot so they let me stay on and drink free Cherry Lime-Aids to my heart's content.
  • Did the beauty pageant wave in 3 home-town parades on the back of a convertible mustang.   
  • Participated in 2 pageants - one of which I won (with only two competitors) and was crowned 'Miss BBQ Queen'.  The other of which had to be rigged cause I didn't even place runner-up.   Still a little bitter bout that one.
  • If I show you my owl pictures and my pageant pictures you would swear I was a liar.  I can promise you that.   I was a reality make-over show before reality make-over shows came on every other hour on cable tv.
  • I fell in puppy love with a jock who was my bus driver and sat behind him drooling over his shoulder every day of my sophomore year.   Shocker is that my pageant days had not yet hit and he still flirted with the little owl anyway.
  • Even more a shocker was that the bus driver turned Navy Sailor would come and visit the non-skating-Sonic-carhop who was now hot on his weekends off.    
  • Even more a shocker was that we got married between my Junior and Senior years of college at a party school.   Was I trying to throw away my free pass at being-an-idiot-years??
So in my last 15-17 adult years I have pretty successfully:
  • married my high school crush, and stayed married to him - SCORE
  • Made it through graduate school as a married student who never saw her new husband, and still stayed married to him - SCORE++
  • Been pregnant and gave birth to 3 beautiful children.  Each through the magical moments of epidural deliveries.   And do not regret never doing it naturally.  Not one iota.   And my hair and make-up still looked good for after birth photos.   So there.  Another +. 
  • Did my tour of duty in the public schools before starting my own business.   Loving the work I do but hating every minute of the required paperwork and labor it takes to get paid.   I think I need an epidural drip for my office chair. 
  • Made three trips to Africa.  The first completely 'on my own' with a group of strangers who were to become life-long friends.  My longest (and only) plane ride prior had been approximately 45 minutes to Florida.  On my honeymoon.
  • Fell in love with Africa and began the short, but turned out to be long, process to adopt our daughter from there.   And realized that natural labors are bound to be much easier than adoption pregnancies.   Why is there no option for medication in adoption labor??  oh wait, there is - it's called anti-depressants....  
  • Have realized anti-depressants are not the enemy.  They help me to curb my desire to yank my eyebrows out if I have to wait too long at a stoplight during my week when Tony feels compelled to ask 'are you PMSing!!!!'   Why yes, hubs, yes I am.   Did the chocolate ring around my mouth give it away??
  • Have realized that said chocolate doesn't fall off my thighs as easily in 2010's as it did in the 2000's.  Dang it.

I have also realized that I am the daughter of a King.  A fact I think I somehow missed in my early years.   I thought I was good to go to the party but really was one of the virgins stuck outside the gates with a lamp with no oil.   (Matt 25:9-11 for an explanation of the virgin reference)  

And my only regret (besides letting Dave Ramsey advise us to move our deductibles really high before a hailstorm which wrecked our cars and roof..) is that I started it all so late in the game...

How much more could I have done if my passion, or light, had been lit earlier?   How many more miracles could I have been able to witness had I opened my eyes earlier? 
How many more friends, true friends, could I have made if I had searched them out sooner?
How would my life have changed if I had let loose and given it over to HIM at a younger age?

Somehow I don't think things would be much different because one thing that it did take me 3 years in the adoption race to learn is that HIS TIMING IS PERFECT and patience is hard learned.    So I guess He has me right where he wants me and the above bullets are exactly where he wanted 'em to be...

just wondering where the next 20 years may take me.   Cause my fire is lit now, and I pray that my path will be as well. 

Happy Birthday to me... if I celebrated birthdays that is.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Not all adopted kids have AIDS... but so what if they do??

Olivia has been home now a month and a half!   She is so healthy, so happy, and just exudes such joy to everyone who meets her.   She's gone to the farm, to the beach, to the mountains, and even (gasp) to the grocery store since she has been home.   I had expected it would be harder... and I know I should  be knocking on wood here.  But I thought her  transition would involve many more tantrums and the feedback from our little Southern town would be less than enthusiastic.  

But it hasn't been that at all.  Strangers (black, white, old, young) have frequently stopped us to comment how beautiful she is and we haven't had a single negative public comment as of yet.   Again, knocking on wood.  I'm still expecting to meet that idiot at Wal-Mart who starts out with 'Where's her real mama?' (ahem, I am her real mama.  I have thousands in dr. bills to prove it.)

The one comment that has knocked me on my behind is 'well, she doesn't have AIDS does she??'    Because obviously, she is from Africa.... and well, everyone knows AIDS comes from Africa. 
 So all black African children must have AIDS.  (insert eye roll)

And let me start by answering - no, adopted children are tested before, and often after, adoption to find out any conditions that may be present.    There have been cases of false positives, but not negatives.  If they don't have it, it does not 'mature' and exhibit itself at a later date.   Decades of research, decades.

But let me also say, if my child did have HIV - #1 it wouldn't really be anyone else's business but ours.. and #2 your child would most likely be the dangerous of the two when they play together as it would be your germs that could hurt my child's fragile immune system.   Just sayin'.

It is pure idiocracy that the media has ignored this issue for so long.  No new information has been publicized since the 1980s.  And that is a crime.  HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentence.  Especially in a country as affluent as the old US of A.   Medicines have made great strides and the condition, and treating it, has actually been said to be much easier to manage than childhood diabetes.   So why hasn't the media told us this???    Children diagnosed with AIDS can now be medicated to the point that they would actually test negative their counts are so low.  They can marry, and have sex, and have children without passing the disease along.   Didn't know that did ya??

Why is there still the stigma put on these children, who had no say in the matter anyway as to whether they contracted the disease or not??  Why are they the ones that parents don't want their kids to play with on the playground - when no cases have shown casual contact like hugging, wrestling, or swimming can transmit AIDS??  There are even no cases of an adopted child passing the disease along to their parents or siblings - even with contact with blood from accidents or scrapes.

So IF my child WERE sick:
The facts are that unless your toddler is planning on having sex with my toddler, they can't get it.
Unless you toddler is breastfeeding from my toddler, they can't get it.
Unless your toddler is sharing needles under the plastic slide with my toddler, they can't get it.

And let me take another wild guess that your child would not be giving birth to mine as that is the ONLY other way to get it, and happens to be the way that the majority of orphans abroad contracted the disease. 

So back to Africa - yes - the rates are high.  But they are also high in the Ukraine and Russia, worried about that little blond boy at the playground lately??   His mom has dark hair, he might be adopted?  Who knows?  

These orphans in other countries have a very good chance of dying from childhood illnesses they contract in the crowded orphanages.  These children in the US have a much better chance of leading long and healthy lives.   These children were orphans, and throughout scripture it says to defend the orphans, so how Christ-like are people who call themselves followers of Christ who are shunning these children like they have leprosy??   I'm pretty sure a guy I look up to ate with them as well...  

So NO, not all black, adopted children from Africa have AIDS. 
But if they did, so what?   My children have played with children with HIV in America and in the African orphanages, and you know what, I don't know which ones had it and which ones didn't.  And my kids could have cared less either.  So, so what?  

This awesome video explains the above in a much more friendly way - without the aggravated tone I was unable to hide:

Truth Pandemic

There is no excuse for ignorance.
Get the FACTS: 
take the time to browse Project Hopeful's website.  They have been making tremendous strides in trying to educate the public and defend the orphan.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Blame it on the Rain

Written a few weeks back, and just now finished (cause I've kinda been a bit busy)

People have asked me - 'how did your kids do in Africa?' Amazing. Great. They loved it. Seth was begging me to take him back for trip #2. My response, "Bud, if you go back; you will fail 6th grade." I think he would have been ok with that...

Braeden prayed yesterday for the guard at the guest house who had played soccer with them to be safe (and to dream about them).   One of the boys woke up a couple nights after we returned home and said he had had a bad dream that he was one of the boys living on the streets.   These are the feelings I had hoped they would feel.    Eyes opened with new vision.

Addison, I thought, just went with the flow. She saw dirt, and poverty. But she also saw kids. And she played. And saw hippos. I thought she was too young to really process and learn a lot from this trip but there was no way I was leaving her at home. But I didn't think she would 'get it' - that life lesson I wanted the boys to learn. But oh, was I wrong.  One night after our trip (prior to bringing Olivia home)  while  coming out of the movies, it was a torrential downpour. Like the kind where you get soaked to the bone even with an umbrella. The streets were flooded instantly and Daddy had to go and get the car for us from across the street. As we waited underneath the overhang of the Little Theatre, her eyes went big and she had that look of terror. "Mommy! What about Olivia!??!! What will happen to her in all this rain???" So I explained that Olivia will be fine. It was not raining that exact moment in Ethiopia, and even if it were, Olivia would be nice and warm inside the transition home. To which her eyes got big again and she asked, "but what about all the little boys who live on the street??? Where will they go!!??!!!" To which I had no soothing answer.

 Because there are so, so many little boys living on the streets of Addis.   And big boys. Sleeping in the medians.  And old people. And handicapped. And mothers with babies and toddlers huddled under their shawls.  

 And it is now the rainy season in the city of Addis.   A necessity for crop production but a season which brings tropical storm type winds and heavy rains almost every day.  And where DO they go?  And why don't we care as much as my 6 year old??? 

And even for some 'lucky' enough to have shelter.... how much shelter from torrential downpours can this be? 
 homes we passed on the way up Mt. Entoto

On those nights when I complain about my back hurting from our super thick mattress... or I complain about having to pay to have a brand new roof put on our house after our last one was damaged...  I stop myself and thank God; for blessed doesn't even seem to describe our affluent lives.....

Sunday, May 20, 2012


And just a reminder:  the art was painted in Oct, 2011 by Katie Bradley from Mossy Rock Designs.   Olivia Selam would have been around 4-5 months then.    You can go to Katie's shop to purchase other children's prints and support her adoption of her little girl as well.

She has never seen Olivia and sent the print to me a month BEFORE our referral to cheer me up.  It still cheers me up to see how perfect and planned she was for our family!!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Why my baby may live in a sling..

Just so you don't think we are being stingy with Olivia.  Or overprotective.  Or rude.   Parenting an adopted child looks a lot different than parenting a biological child.  Especially at almost one year of age.

So a brief summary of our new daughter:

We arrived in Addis Ababa on Monday morning. After not sleeping much on the plane with sleeping pills and Melatonin on board I asked 'should we bring Olivia home today? Or wait til tomorrow when we are more rested?' We/I decided we would wait and see how she reacted to us and if she was very skittish, we would let her stay at the Transition Home one more night. Turns out she did great with us!  She was a little scared at first but within an hour was smiling and playing so I decided to take her with us even though the little Livvie that loved being held by mommy from our court trip wasn't quite back yet.

As soon as we entered the guest house, her fear level went through the roof. Big eyes. Scared cry. Big tears. Even though she was ok with me holding her, she was just so, so scared.   Clinging to me with wide eyes.
And now, almost a week later - She is extremely attached. Extremely to the point of me not being able to take a shower or go to the bathroom without her screaming. And I mean screaming. Loud! If I stand up, she clings to my legs and cries to be picked up. If she is on the floor, she wants to be sitting in my lap.   She is scared to death of falling asleep in her portacrib.  She finally has a mother and is so scared that I might not be permanent.   Although today, with our last official Embassy appointment - she is definitely permananet. 

Her official birth certificate with Tony and Tracy Wages listed as her parents. 

So what does that mean for the coming weeks/months?
- Olivia has been abandoned by those that loved her at least three times in the last 11 months.  So while she is attaching to me great.  And loves me.  She doesn't understand or know for sure that I am forever.   So we have to teach her that WE are her parents and not just another shift of nanny care.  Which means WE will need to be the ones to comfort her when she is upset, give her her bottles, and feed her. 
- She also doesn't understand that every new stranger may not be a new 'mom' or 'dad' wanting to take her away.  So she gets very serious when strangers talk to her and will cry if taken or held.  It has taken a week for my sister and mom to be able to hold her without her crying just so I can go to the bathroom.  So you can imagine that she would not be comfortable with lots of different people holding her at church or the ballfield.   I will be trying to keep her in the sling as much as possible to assure her that she is attached to me/us.
- Just as she became very scared as we enter new places here, she will get very anxious with new and unfamiliar places outside of our home.  So aside from 'have to' appointments and places for the next several weeks, we will be trying to limit how much transition she is exposed to, to help build her trust.  If she settles in great.  But if not, we may need to limit church, grocery stores, park outings, etc.
- And just as this new mommy came and took her away from the nannies that she loved.   She may have trouble adjusting to new people coming to our home to see her as she will not understand or know if that means she is being taken away or not.   So we may have to limit visitors as well for a time.  And all the above is up to Olivia, not us.   If she begins to settle in great.  Is showing that she is attaching to our family vs every family.   Is sleeping without night terrors or screaming fits of fear, we will be able to return to our 'old' chaotic, crazy lives much quicker.  But all that is up to her little emotions.

So please don't think we are hogging our new baby, not wanting to share her gorgeous smile.   Or that we are withdrawing completely from all our friends and family.  It's just that until we see what this little fragile 11 month old mind and soul can handle - we don't want to expose her to more stress and anxiety than absolutely necessary.   Which is why she may hang out safely in my sling for the next few weeks.  At least she is loving it now.   Kind of hard to take a shower with a 22 lb baby attached though...

We love you all and thank you so much for the many prayers and support we have received in the past, almost 3 years.   She is finally coming home.  Praise the Lord!!! 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Leavin on an Aeroplane

Did I happen to mention that every morning for the last 2 weeks, I had been waking up at 3 am and again at 5 am to check my email to see if a response from the embassy had come?   'It should take less than a week... most do.  It may be right at a week.....'  When it wasn't, I started freakin out a tad bit (understatement).   The Embassy's form response email says they have 15 days to reply.  SO.. Get the email to the Director - request status of file.  Get the email to the dude in Ethiopia's Embassy - request status of file.   I'm told that it could be 2-3 weeks before they make a decision... that's norm now.

So I curl up in a ball and cry.   Add to this the fact that on the SAME day, we get her monthly update and baby girl is now taking steps.  What!?!  We had a deal chick!!!  No walking til mommy gets back!!!   Feels like a punch in the mouth.   Oh, AND, I get an email saying we need to start the renewal process for our fingerprints, for the third time (they are only good for 18 months...) THIRD time.   Because they expire in June.  WHAT!?!  I may not get her til June??  I go into fetal position.

But after all that crying, I sleep well.  Like, til 6:15 well.  When I wake up, think about going back to bed and making Tony take the kids to school, cause I did all that crying last night and just feel like Part II.   Instead I go check the email and WHAT!?!  It's there!!  We are clear!  I immediately email right back 'can I have an appointment for Thursday??"  But low and behold, they close half day on Friday, so IF I had woken up at 3, or even 5, they might have gotten that request... but at 6:30, they had already left the office.

SO -- Go?  Stay?  Delay?  Our paperwork is set to mail out of Nairobi on Monday.   Which means 1-3 days to get to Addis.   So possibly, if our paperwork is there, I could meet with Embassy on Thursday, pick up her visa on Friday, and come home as planned.  Another family that live in India and got the same email as me that they were clear emailed right back and WERE given a Thursday appt.... so hoping that they honor my request as well and that ok meant they foresee the file being back in time. 

SO -- a bazillion people tell me on Facebook to go.  My husband tells me to go - and we HAVE to honor our husbands, right??   So after staring at the computer screen for a good hour, I finally pull that trigger, purchase the tickets...... and we leave tomorrow morning at 6 am.

SO -- IF the Embassy gives me a Thursday appt.... and
IF the paperwork gets to Addis Tues-Thurs......
I could bring her home with my mom and sister on Saturday into Charlotte at 3:00 pm.

BUT -- IF the Embassy says their Thursday is full.... or
IF the paperwork doesn't get there til later....
I could have to stay to meet on Monday, pick up her visa on Tues/Wed.  and come home by myself next week.  

It would be an understatement to say that this is all a little 'dangerous' to my usually plan oriented, follow the rules, do as advised personality.   The agency recommended we be safe and wait until the file gets to Addis, sometime this week.  But my heart says go.  So we GO.  

Pray friends, God has been in the details of every.single.step of this adoption so far.  I know he can do this too with the snap of his fingers.  

The last step - bringing her home.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

To Nairobi we Go

Remember how I said our case might go to Nairobi?? It went to Nairobi. As most cases of her type have.

Which is a not so great thing - as it meant the Embassy in Addis didn't call me last week and say - come get your girl...

Which is also a kinda great thing - because it meant the Embassy in Addis didn't call for more investigations or let it set on their desk for 2-3 more weeks but sent it on pretty quickly. About a week ahead of schedule actually ...

Which is also a kinda great thing - because it should arrive early next week and the Embassy in Nairobi has been making decisions under a week normally.

Which means we might be able to go and have our appointment with the Embassy when the file returns a week or so later to Ethiopia.

So the countdown is on ya'll!! Hopefully, I will be back on a plane within 2-3 weeks. I'm starting to pack a little here and there!

Cause we got more pictures this week and our baby girl has gone from this baby girl:

to this baby girl:

SO she needs to become this baby girl again, like NOW. We need some baby spoilen going on! Nuf said?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


As in 'bring her home' sick. I am feeling literally sick to my stomach every time I think about how much longer it could be to bring Olivia Selam home.

I KNOW we were submitted at lightening flash speed.
I KNOW our 2 weeks, until you hear something, is just up tomorrow.
I KNOW many, many, parents had to wait much, much longer than us so far.

BUT, I still know that every morning as soon as my eyes open I am popping up and racing to a computer to check emails for early morning Embassy news. And my stomach drops at 10 am everyday as I recognize the end of their workday.

Last week we heard of some really fast, like super duper fast, Embassy clearances. Like under a week cleared. And the next day we got a generous, $2000 donation to pay for my plane ticket so I was reading the writing on the wall that said God was moving and I should get packing. This week, my weakness has kicked in and I'm back to trying to prepare myself for our paperwork to take a Nairobi trip which = a month more minimum. So much for my flexing those faith muscles. Thank goodness for my prayer warrior friends who I know have got my back!!

Someone had told me this was the hardest part of the wait and I was all like, 'NO, our 2 year referral wait was pretty dang hard - this is a piece of cake'. I have 300 brown eyed munchkin photos and 2 hours of video to feast on. Well friends..... this is the hardest part of the wait...

Come home soon baby cakes. Mommy has baby fever.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Adoption is just a Front

It's a front. It's not what they say it is. It's not about helping a child. Even a gorgeous angel like this one.

It's not about the hours invested, the thousands of dollars poured into it. It's all a front. It's not about 'saving' a child, really at all. It's not really even about creating a new family, not this one anyway.

Was it about making us look like 'super Christians'?? Like strong pillars of faith that trusted God every step of the way? Did we (or anyone else) adopt just to have the attention and the admiration poured on us? Because we've gotten more attention in the last 3 years than the last 15 combined.

Was it about making the baby, one lucky little baby? Bringing her into a family that loves her. Saving her from the horrors that IS growing up as an orphan? Well, that is a benefit, but it's not even about that at all.

Adoption is a front because it's not about the adoption at all. It's about what it does. It's about the master plan. It's a means to an end. And that end is not MY family. That end is HIS family.
Because when I tell our story, which I am able to do often - as it is often that I hear 'what made you decide to adopt?', I am able to tell HIS story. It's not mine at all. I'm just the little, pretty invitation which brings people into the party. And it is HIS party. A birthday party if you will.

Because when I tell you that I heard God say to go to Ethiopia to get my little girl as I drove down the road to Columbia, and then that He affirmed His will via a sentence on the computer, you can clearly see - God will talk to you if you pray and listen.

Because when I tell you that God sent us an anonymous money order for $1500 when we needed $1500... or a donation of $2000 when we needed $2000 for a plane ticket..... or buy one-get one free plane tickets on the last few minutes of the deal when we had literally minutes to spare - you can clearly see - God will provide for your needs, if you have faith that he will.

Because when I tell you that God sent me an artist's rendering of my daughter, a week before we ever saw her face, painted 2 months before she even went into our orphanage - you will clearly see - God's plan is in motion before we are even ready to receive it.

Because when I tell you that we fought through wanting to quit, that we cried that we were done, that we begged our social worker for news, and that we prayed 'why God?' more times than we can count - you can clearly see - it is not about our strength or faith muscles, as it was only with His strength that we are dragging ourselves over the finish line. It was not by our will-power. That is for sure.

So yes, we got lots of attention. And yes, our precious baby is no longer an orphan. But that is just the icing on the cake. You can clearly see - the difference made in a little one who has went from orphan to daughter. The change is amazing, it doesn't even look like the same child.

So it is the parallels of adoption that is the true story. The parallel of how when you allow HIM to adopt you, the change will be amazing, and you will no longer look like the same child. But instead of the story of the affluent American citizens making the choice to include a helpless orphan, it is the story of a mighty King, asking YOU, will YOU be my child? The miracles, the story, the beauty of my adoption, and of anyone else's - they are just how He drew you in and opened your eyes for you to see - He has a bigger plan than bringing a baby girl named 'peace' to America.

His plan is to make His name known, and to open your heart so that you can see the plan that he has for you as well. And the transformation should be easy to see. Have you been sitting on your hands and watching others dance? Isn't it time to let him turn your life into a frilly invitation as well?

Easter is a time of celebration, but it didn't end 2000 years ago with an empty tomb - Christ is moving, and active, and alive today. It's when you open your eyes to see what he has placed right in front of you that you really begin to feel and see his presence..

Monday, April 2, 2012

My Kid Rocks Monday

My friend Missy at 'it's almost naptime' started a new, fun game where moms are given a platform to brag on their kiddos every Monday vs. the usual - I am so tiiiiiiiiired of taking care of these little monkeys and their endless messes! (not that I would ever say something like that!)

So for my first edition I set forth my first born. Who Tony calls his little twin, but I know that under the surface, he is his mother's son to the very core.

Exhibit A:

The Big Brother Journal

Seth had asked to start a blog (like his mommy). I helped him set it up, saw them deny it because he was too young, so gave him my own google password and said 'here son, I pass you the baton'. Or something like that.

He wrote the post while I was taking Braeden to ball practice (read as: while I was sunbathing, chatting with other moms, and reading for 2 perfect, gorgeous hours I should have been cleaning). With only a couple 'how do I do XX?' texts - he did it completely independently.

I expected a post about the long plane ride, or the wild animals we saw. But oh no - he had to go THERE and make mommy cry. I love him. My kid rocks.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Embassy Submitted!!! and What's that all about???

I just went back and checked out my previous posts and no wonder I don't get any comments - those things are long!!! Everyone fell asleep before they got to the end. So this will be short... promise. Well, in Tracy terms anyway.

We were submitted to Embassy on Wed - March 28!!!

Exactly 20 days after passing court. About the fastest embassy submission I have seen so far!! They sent us a copy of all the forms so we now have her ultra cute new birth certificate, with us listed as her parents. And her sweet little Passport photo. SO, SO cool to know I was holding her up to have that photo made.

What's up with her new name: Selamawit Tony Wages. (smile) So many people have asked, why not Olivia?? Olivia is the name we have been calling her for 2 years and the child we have been praying for. So we choose to change her name to Olivia when we re-adopt her state-side. For now, she still has the name given to her in Ethiopia - Selamawit (means- she is peaceful). But Ethiopians usually don't call a girl Selamawit, so she is being called by the nickname Selam. Which is why we are using that as her middle name. Ethiopians also give their children the father's name as their middle name. Thus, the ultra feminine middle name of 'Tony' on her birth certificate.

just look at all that curly hair!!!! Can't wait til it grows back out from her stylish orphanage shave.
Another interesting tidbit:
Her birthday was just changed. What???? I KNOW. Olivia is now 2 months younger than she was. In Ethiopia, birthdays are rarely recorded as the majority of children are not born with a physician present, much less in a hospital. Which contributes to why so many orphans; as so many young mothers pass away in childbirth (1 in 5 births).

So her original birthday was estimated based on her size and weight. For some reason, the paperwork has her at another birthday than the one we originally had estimated. So she is now only 10 months old vs 12. Which means we should be able to celebrate her first birthday with her in June!!!
However, I think the first birthday in April was more accurate according to her medical records and weight/length. But whatev, right??? When she is 2 or 3, those 2 months aren't going to mean anything. Besides the fact that she is now a summer baby like Seth and I and will hate having birthday parties that no one comes to and having all your friends forget to call because they are at Myrtle Beach. But I'm not bitter at all.

So what now??

The Embassy will take about 2 weeks to review our case.

Then most likely will need to send it to Nairobi to have the higher ups to review and (hopefully) pass us through. The entire process takes about 3 weeks for Nairobi.

So our agency is estimating mid-May for our embassy appointment to be scheduled. Appointment as in 'your presence is requested at our little DMV window in Addis to tell us you promise to love, protect, and teach to obey this little peanut you are now forever holding in your arms.'

For the first time, I can't WAIT to be in that efficient (cough, cough) governmental agency.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

Answered Prayers - Adoption Edition

Bathed in prayer. Prayer warriors. Prayers of a child. Powerful weapons indeed.
As we prepared to travel across the ocean with 3 bio kids in tow... we had many people tell us 'we'll be praying for you.' We asked MANY people - would you please pray for us? How often we tell someone we will pray for them and then go about our day with hardly another thought? However, my friends, I have some praying friends who take their jobs seriously!! And we felt it.
Specifically, we had asked for good health for our family. No matter who, or when, someone travels to Africa, usually someone in their group is throwing up, or ahem, something else. Always. And with 6 of us going, the chances of a sickie were pretty high. But no - we were blessed with good health all week. There were a few instances of a little nauseau, but overall, no major stomach bugs which was a huge praise!
We had also prayed that Olivia would attach well with her new family. The kids prayed every night that she would 'dream about us' so that she would know us and accept us. Lots of prayers went up on our behalf for this concern as well.
So the day we landed in Ethiopia, we had about 2 hours to shower (or nap). Then lunch (which is never quick in Africa), and then we were on our way to meet our sweet one. When we arrived at the transition home, they have kind of a mini-ceremony of the parents-to-be standing on the big porch and the nanny then marches the little bride out the door and 'gives her away'. We have seen many videos but had NO idea what to expect from little miss. But she did great! One, they don't go outside very much so I'm sure she felt out of her element, and two - here's a big group of white people hugging all over me and throwing toys in my face! But let me tell you, this baby had a miraculous week in my opinion. God had prepared her heart in advance for us and in the following sequence of photos - you can see her little personality coming out and her just coming alive!
Day 1 : This is immediately after they handed me Olivia. She whimpered for about 5 minutes and then was just shell-shocked the rest of the day. Everyone asked me if I cried, which I didn't. I think I just went into mommy-mode and knew my job was to calm this sweet babe of mine; so I didn't have time to get emotional.
The look on her face was pretty much static that day. Not much emotion but at least no screaming or terror on her face. And great attention to both us and the kids. She was studying us most of the day but then was comfortable enough to fall asleep in our arms.
Day 2 : I thought we may have a problem when Addi asked first thing to hold the baby. I told her she could while I put my sling on but moments after handing her Olivia, she let our a wail, which got Addison crying and wailing "she haaaaates me!" Sisters. We let her instead feed her cereal later and that made everything ok.
Sneaking in a little bit of a smile. Less of the blank stare. We met with the Dr. this day and I was anxious to see how she would do with our Ethiopians versus a white mommy. Would she reach for them and want out of my arms? No! Even the Dr. said it looked like she was doing so well with us.
Day 3: Our turning point - amazingly soon. I had first gone to get Olivia and then a little later they started bringing out the other babies for me to take photos of. So I tried to hand Livvie to Tony. No go. I tried setting her down beside me with the other babies we were photographing. Wasn't having it. But she was like this in my arms. Prayers answered as my baby wants to be MY baby.
We also tried to get her to crawl some this day. But if she was taken away from me, she would cry. If she tried to get off my lap to retrieve a toy, she would attempt to crawl but then quickly reach back to touch me and make sure I was still there. Limited her range of motion a bit. That afternoon I cried when I handed her back to the nanny and she reached for me and cried. Just a taste of the seperation to come.
Day 4: This was our court date. We went to court that morning, found out we had passed and heard the words 'she is yours'. After lunch we came to the transition home to find a sick baby who just didn't feel good. I think they had just given her some kind of cold medicine which doped her up a bit. But she still did great with us and would even let the kids hold her and play with her more. Can you see a difference in this child from day 1?? Four days! Only by the grace of God. Her behavior was flying in the face of all the adoption books I had been reading that cautioned me of rare eye contact, avoidance behaviors, or of being ok with all adults with no preferences for family....
Day 5: Olivia had been babbling /dadada/ since about day 3. She loves to talk (hmm, where would she get THAT from as a Wages?) But this day, I finally was able to get her to start imitating /mama/ and was able to capture on film the FIRST time she said it for me. Heaven.She also felt a little more secure and would let Seth take her a foot or so away to crawl to me. She wouldn't crawl back once in my arms, but at least she didn't have a fit when he took her out of my arms. By this day, she was doing so much better with the kids and would look for them to play with her - peek-a-boo, patty-cake, and let-me-see-how-many-abnoxious-noises-I-can-entertain-my-sister-with.Day 6 & 7 : We left to journey to Nazareth to visit the orphanage she was in for the first 6 months of her life. And then on down to Meki, where she was born, and then Awassa to see wildlife and the hippos. I was really worried how she would react to our brief seperation when we came back.
Day 8 : She did great! When I opened the door to her nursery she was on her belly and looked up at me and smiled! She then crawled over to me quickly. LOVED it.This was also the day that we found out she was a Daddy's girl as well. Tony had taken her in for a diaper change and while she was in the 'closet' being changed, he got down to play with the other babies. When Olivia came out and saw him, she started to whine and cry until he took her. "That's MY Daddy!!" Obviously, no hatred anymore. I foresee many little girl giggles in the future.
So, this post was really more for me than you. As I'm sure hard times will come. And we will face other attachment issues once she comes home. And I wanted a record of God's hand in her and our lives so early on. Proof that we will heal, and she is/was meant to be our daughter. But for that one week and a half, only the prayers of God's children could have orchestrated such a beautiful connection. I even told Tony, I had expected to fill a little bit of oddness at mothering an older child, not of birth. Yes, I loved her - but I expected to fill a little strange. I expected a little awareness as well of mothering a child of another color. But I didn't. It was never weird, or odd, or uneasy at all. She was ours. She was prayed for, and cried for, and is truly a gift of God that fits us perfectly.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Bits and Pieces

Today was an all-day Olivia day. We got to spend a few hours with her this morning, in which she slept almost the entire time... and then out to lunch and back to do some more huggin and silly face makin. So I figured I would list some of the highlights of our trip for those getting ready to travel or who just want to be in the know:
* Tony was sick today and came back to veg out after lunch, doing much better now. No one else has gotten sick. But we have stayed away from anything freshly cut (fruit, tomatoes, salad) and all dairy products except an occasional macchiato with creme (yummmmy). Cooked things is the key to a happy stomach. And the occasional TUMS. We also started probiotics a few days before our trip. The kids haven't been taking theirs now as I don't have applesauce or yogurt to mix it in and they hate it in drinks... I've still been taking every morning and have been fine.
* Mindy saw a woman peeing in the middle of the median yesterday. A sight SHE wont forget. She and Tony are having a hard time with the smells of Addis. All the cars/trucks have bad exhaust fumes and the smell of fumes, burning charcoal, and strange to us spices in the air has been hard for them.
* Last night we met a truly awesome (and ultra-cool) American couple who moved here last September with their family to start a mission in Addis. We met at Sishumi - known for their American-style charcoal grilled burgers and fries. SO good. Burgers in Ethiopia do NOT taste like American burgers, but these were better than American. The restaurant had a wooden castle playground under it where the kids could play - so very cool to let the adults talk in piece while the kids played.
* Today for lunch we ate at a place called Avanti. And again - I was blown away. Braeden and I shared a homemade pasta with spinach/cheese/salmon filling. SO good. Best thing I have eaten in a long time.
* The portions for most restaurants we have gone to are HUGE. But with 5 people, agreeing on plates to share in a foreign country has been difficult.. so we have been getting all our leftovers packaged to give to the street boys as we go out to our van. Braeden and Addison LOVE giving their food away. There are lots of street boys. And women on the street with babies in slings. And older men who are crippled. It is so eye-opening to see how lucky Americans are to have programs to take care of those in need. The night before our trip, Tony had a gas station attendent tell him we 'shouldn't be adopting over there but taking care of our own here.' Sigh.... While I hate the way the system is abused, thank God for welfare, food stamps, and the foster care system to take care of 'our own'.
*Olivia - amazingly healthy. With a big ole pot belly. They feed them about every 2 hours, going back and forth between bottles and some kind of mushy food. Like pasta which looks like Campbell's chicken rings or rice cereal. She showed us she CAN crawl today. Before she wouldn't go out of my arms far enough away to crawl to me. But she has finally taken to Seth and would let him take her about 2 feet away to crawl to me. We were a little worried about her right side as she holds her hand a little weird and her leg turns a bit out... so I'm thinking she may have to have a little early intervention. But this is pretty common. So glad to see she has a great pincher grasp with both hands to pick up cereal and her crawling was perfect. She's not really trying to walk yet and I'm thinking that foot may hold her back for a little while. Totally fine by me to keep her my little baby a little longer before toddlerhood.
* Olivia's 11 month birthday was today :) Kinda. They estimate birthdays in Ethiopia so they are not exactly sure what her birthday is.
* To be clear - we can't bring her home next Tuesday. She is all ours in the eyes of Ethiopia. And I could take possession of her now if I were to move here in the interim. But the US Government now requires her new birth certificate and adoption decree (around 2 weeks time to get), a passport (more waiting time) and another medical evaluation before they even will accept her paperwork to look at. They will then decide if everything looks great, and call us back to come to her exit visa interview.... or to investigate and most likely send our case to Nairobi. We are guessing on the 'safari' to Nairobi as all other abandonment cases have gone that direction so far. So possibly 2-4 more months before I can come back. Which stinks. Highly.
* The kids have been playing with the kids at the transition home everyday with no problems. Soccer, drawing, puzzles... Braeden got a drum as his souvenior and took it into the toddler room yesterday ---- most precious sight ever to see he and Addi beating that drum while the nannies clapped along and babies danced around them. Precious.
* The kids love playing pee-pi with Olivia and having her imitate their silly sounds and squeals. She loves to play with them. While sitting on my lap that is :) She is starting to try to play peek a boo by lifting one hand up to her eye and yesterday started clicking her tongue to get Tony to play that imitation game with her. Today she was taking her bottle and I was talking to another mom - Olivia made little noises to get me to look her in the eyes again - I guess she has read the attachment books!
* She has been babbling /dadada/ and /bababa/ for a couple days but finally today - I was able to get her to do /mama/. SOOOO sweet. But so not intentional. Yet.
* We have been calling the baby by Selam, Olivia, Livvie - and trying to remember to say Olivia Selam. But right now, poor thing gets all three. My intention was to use Olivia Selam for a while so she would hear both. She already recognizes Selam and will turn her head when called.
* I have been able to reunite with my dear friend Eyerusalem on this trip and it has been so sweet to be able to see her again. She and her husband helped us to hire a driver to take us tomorrow about 3 hours away to visit the orphanage she was in until December, and the place where she is from. We will then travel down to Hawassa to see a gorgeous African lake and go on a boat ride to see the hippos.
enough for now - I need to pack for the trip!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Olivia Selam Wages

Olivia Selam Wages
Daughter of Tony & Tracy Wages
March 8th, 2012
**Selam means 'peace'**

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Woman on a Mission

Today was our big shopping day... I had told the kids they each could pick ONE thing. So the first store we go in, Addison makes a selection... Hmmm, let's keep on moving. 'But, that's what I want!' Well, let's go to the next store.. Pretty dress? No. Handmade doll? No. Pretty bracelet? No. Next store, and the next, and the next... how about this wooden carved girl with braids? No. 'I want that back there.' How about this really cool drum? Nope.

She had made up her mind and there was no changing it. Above - view Addison's new love. His name is T. After our guide here that she likes. She carries T around with her and loves him. And shows him off. He ate lunch with us today. And she is completely infatuated with his spear and shield. I think it is HILARIOUS. That out of all the things she could have chosen, she chose a warrior man with a goat skin cloak and pointey spear. Hilarious.

And any guesses on which child chose the goatskin drum and which one chose the artistically carved staff? Hmmm, not too hard folks.

In other news, Olivia is doing fantastic. The kids are still doing great. They are really starting to love her and their funny faces, noises, and squeals will now make her break out into the biggest smiles and her own squeals. She is starting to interact with Tony more and even looked at him today and clicked her tongue to cue him she wanted him to do it to her like he had been. Smart girl!! He's pretty stoked that she has been babbling /dadada/. (I'll give him that one) However, I sadly had to post on Facebook that I am worried her behind is broken.... she cries every.single.time I set her down or in someone's lap. But she is perfectly fine in my arms. I love it. We had heard she knew how to crawl but after several attempts of putting her on all fours, each time she would sit back up and put one hand back to touch me, which kind of inhibited the crawling motion a great deal. We are just amazed at how great this is going. The difference in her in the last 3 days has been so awesome to see. She still doesn't like kisses, even from me, and stiffens up when you hug her... but we'll get there.

Keep praying folks, tonight as you sleep is our morning court date. SO wild that we were filling out paperwork today with her name S******** Wages in preparation for her passing and becoming our legal daughter. And hopefully, tomorrow we can share her name AND her precious face!!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sweeter than ice tea

Go ahead, cue the AWWWWWWW. Tony sucking in all the Olivia he can in the 10 minutes I gave him out of a short 2 1/2 hours at the transition home. Mommy is a baby hog and likes to explain it with attachment theories. And since Daddy hasn't read those books yet...... Truth be told - we went in the morning today so we had her play on my lap until she got comfortable with us again, then an interview with the dr., then Addison fed her cereal, in which she fell asleep eating, and she slept in my sling until it was time to go. Not that I'M complaining or anything! I have come to the conclusion that once she comes home, we may need a laundry service to do our clothing because mommy wont be getting much accomplished besides baby holding!
This morning when I went in to get Olivia she whimpered a bit when the nanny handed her to me but had completely quit fussing by the time we made it to the front door. She immediately went back to the point we had gotten to yesterday (in our last 10 min before we had to leave) where she was finally comfortable to play with her toys, eat baby puffs, and play with our faces. However, little sister put big sister into a crying fit when she tried to hold her. Olivia was having none of me handing her off just yet that early in the morning and it really upset Addi - "She hates me!!!" she cried and pouted. The real tears quickly turned to attention tears - the first of many I am sure. Redemption came later when I let her feed the baby her cereal. Olivia even would open her mouth and imitate Addi saying 'aaaaa'. Those moments were enough to put Addison into hyper mode the rest of the day.
After lunch, we went to visit two orphanages in the city. We weren't able to see many kids at the first one as they were in school but did get to play a little in the baby room. My 3 loved talking to the little ones and making them kick their little legs. At the second orphanage, as the kids got out of school - my littles had a blast giving them little balls, McDonald's toys, and cars. Braeden said, "the orphanage was really fun because I got to blow up rocket balloons and let them go and the kids would laugh like poop. Hmm, but poop doesn't laugh! Whoops." Seth said, "I wanted to yell at you because you said they would be so sad. I didn't think they were sad!"
Speaking of attachment, the Dr. said Olivia looked like she was doing great and really settling in with us. She had no real issues and is really healthy. She did great in the sling, even when I first put her in it. I was holding her in the sling in the drs office and even when the nurses came in - she didn't reach for the dr or nurses - something that made me smile a little inside as when we have our outside time, I have no 'competition' of beautiful Ethiopian faces for her to crave instead of my lap. Yesterday, she would pull away when we went to kiss her but today she let me hug and kiss all over her without being frightened. All these baby steps are so important as we have the difficult task of teaching Olivia that we are HERS. That WE will feed her. WE will hold her when she is upset. And WE will love her - unconditionally. And most of all, that WE will not be (after we bring her home) passing her off to the next shift or next place to live. In her little life, her moving to America will be her fourth move. So we have alot of work to do in that area. So glad to see little hints of her accepting us beginning.