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.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Olivia Wages at first sight

We are here and all is GREAT. none of us slept very much on the plane but we were so wired on adrenoline that today flew by. We and our 12 checked bags, 6 carryons, 3 personal items, and 3 children --- were quiet a sight at both checkin security in Charlotte and again at customs in Addis. It took 45 min to get through!! The kids did amazing on the flight - no real meltdowns.. they loved flying. I think Addison watched the newest Chipmunk movie approx 4 times.... and a Dr. Seuss movie 3. No exaggeration.
Just for posterity's sake - our trip consisted of leaving Charlotte at 7:30 am (got up at 3am) ... hour layover in Washington DC, and left Dulles at 10:45 am, Sunday. Arrived in Addis 8 am Monday morning. That's a loooong haul. It was hilarious when we landed in Washington after the first hour flight and Addison exclaimed, "HEY! We're not in Africa!!!"
We met another family back at the guest house and then went to eat lunch (pizza, pasta). Addison scarfed her pasta down and then begged for 15 min, 'let's goooooooo. I want to see Olivia!!'
Meeting Olivia was awesome... unbelievable. She was really scared at first - which attachment wise, is a good thing, it's best that she doesn't think every adult is a parent to have fun with. No crying fits but a lot of big tears and pouty lips. She gets overwhelmed really easy with people or toys and I would have to have the bigs walk away some as when they were all in her face throwing new toys at her, she would start the lip trembling. She did the same with Tony but after having him feed her both her bottle and pasta soup, she did better with him. But still reached for me :)
The last 10 min before we left she started finally playing with us and would try to bounce on my knee more or put her hand over Seth's mouth for him to make noises. We even caught a couple little smiles and a few mini squeaks of sound. SO great to see her progress so quickly. I begrudgingly took her inside and a random nanny took her and when I told her goodbye, she waved to me! Then put out one hand toward me leaning to me, so I acted like I would take her and she came right to me! The guide with us said, "That's very quick" Progress!!! Made Mommy's day.
We then came back to the guest house and while Mindy, Addi, Tony, and Seth have already crashed... Braeden is still up playing and I'm still wired tight. Unless you count me falling to pieces on the rooftop when I went up to email. I'm not a cryer and haven't gotten emotional the last couple weeks at all.... didn't even cry this afternoon - it just felt good to have that sweet thing in my arms!! But once back here, all the emotions slammed into me. We are here. In Addis. And will spend ALL day tomorrow with the daughter we have prayed for and fought for, for 2 long years. Thank you Lord for putting us on this path.