Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.

-Ethiopian Proverb-

Monday, April 26, 2010

Our 5 Month "Waitiversary"!

Well, it's official folks! As of today, April 26th, we have been waiting to be matched with our little girls for 5 months! I have spent many moments reflecting on what our life was like 5 months ago when "The Wait" officially began. Let's see, 5 months ago would take us back to Thanksgiving day of 2009. We spent a wonderful afternoon/evening at my sister and her husband's house having a gourmet meal and anxiously awaiting the confirmation text message from DHL stating that our dossier had been hand delivered to officials at the Toukoul Orphanage. When we got the message that our paperwork had made it safely there with stops in Oregon, Washington DC, Leipzig Germany, and finally to Addis Ababa Ethiopia, Tony and I experienced feelings of joy and anticipation mixed with relief. It was wonderful to be amongst family when this important compilation of documents that took 4 months to gather, safely reached its intended destination. I have heard horror stories of dossiers being lost during transit, and it was wonderful to not be among those unfortunate few! 5 months ago, you would have found me bubbling over with excitement and optimism. I sincerely believed that I would be one of those people who was relieved to have reached the waiting phase of the adoption process. The paperwork phase was a nightmare, but, I'm starting to realize, I had some semblance of control over our adoption during this time. Compiling the paperwork was daunting at best, but nothing could proceed unless I got off my rear and made things happen. For those of you who know me, I am a person who is a "mover and a shaker", and gathering documents for a dossier was a great opportunity to make things happen. It was a relief to get that last elusive piece of paper into my hands and crossed off my crazy dossier checklist! I thought I had it easy from then on out because my part was done, with the exception of writing checks for outrageous sums of money! This has not been the case in the slightest. I have found waiting to be the most difficult thing of all. I have no control over anything; I live in a state of constant stress,frustration, and fear, and there is nothing for me to do except to wait some more!!!! Distraction has not helped, praying has not helped,talking with my husband has not helped, keeping busy has not helped, and counting my blessings has not helped (although I still count my blessings). I have run out of coping mechanisms! On the occasion of my high school graduation, my lovely sister gave me a Dr. Seuss book called "Oh, the Places You'll Go" as a gift. It's a story about a boy navigating through life with all of its ups and downs, joys, and challenges. I read the book through, and when I was a mere 18 years of age, the part of the story that smacked me upside the head was the part about waiting. Dr. Seuss refers to "The Waiting Place" where everyone is just waiting; waiting for the mail to come, or the rain to go, or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow, etc. Back then, before my life really began, I somehow saw that "The Waiting Place" would be in integral part of my adult life, and it has on so many levels. The nice thing about "Oh, the Places You'll Go" is that on the page following the description of "The Waiting Place", Dr. Seuss goes on to say that "Somehow you'll escape all that waiting and staying. You'll find the bright places where the Boom Bands are playing." I'm REALLY ready to go to where the "Boom Bands" are playing (whatever those are)!!!!! I think Dr. Seuss has a point here! Some time, somehow, it will end; there is an escape from waiting! I just hope it comes sooner rather than later! If I have to wait much longer, I will find myself transformed into a woman with no fingernails left from constant nail biting, nubbins for teeth from constant teeth grinding and jaw clenching, and a completely gray head of hair! I'm just kidding! For the most part...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tribes of Ethiopia

One thing that I have wanted to know more about are the different tribes of people who are scattered throughout Ethiopia. Our orphanage has a network of 20 different intake centers located in different regions of the country, and my future daughters could likely come from opposite sides of Ethiopia. I came across a blog the other day from a couple who adopted from the same orphanage we are going through, and they made reference to the different tribal features of their children. Their new daughter has the "cinnamon complexion and almond-shaped eyes" that are apparently common with the Amhara people of the north, and their new son has the "dark complexion and tall stature" of the Somali tribe who live in the south. My curiosity was piqued when I looked at the differences between their two children. How will my future daughters look? Will they be from the same region? The same tribe perhaps? Of course it doesn't matter what they look like; they will be loved all the same, but knowing more about the distinctive looks of each tribe may be helpful in establishing pride in their identity. After researching, my husband and I found that my daughter, L, has the facial features and small body stature of the Aztec people, and knowing this information has helped her come to terms with her heritage. Knowing L's genetic composition has also been helpful from a medical standpoint because her doctors have been able to make some generalizations regarding her growth and development rate based on an understanding of people who are of Aztec descent. Knowing as much as possible about the heritage and past of an adopted child is only to their benefit. The more an adoptive parent can answer their child's questions, the better adjusted that child will be. So, I decided to embark on a search to find out as much as possible about the different tribes found throughout Ethiopia. I have discovered that the internet is, needless to say, chock-full of information. Following are some slide shows I thought would be interesting to share with you. Some of these slides contain partial nudity,so this is a heads-up to people who would rather not see pictures of people "in the raw" so to speak. I,however,think the people in the slides are amazing; they just have different social norms and different ideas of what is beautiful. I sincerely hope you enjoy these slides.

Here is a slide show with images of the Afar people.They live in the northeastern part of Ethiopia. They are a nomadic people who live in dry, desert conditions.

These slides feature the Amhara people. They are the largest tribe in Ethiopia, and they live in the north central highlands of Ethiopia. They are primarily farmers.

The Mursi people live near the border of Sudan. These people are famous for their lip plates as you will see in the slides. They are nomads who survive through cattle herding.

Mursi on Fotopedia

The Borana Oromo people are a subgroup of the Oromo tribe which split into two halves. The Borana Oromo can be found in southern Ethiopia, and they are considered pastoralists.

The people of the Hamer tribe are located in the southwestern part of Ethiopia. They live a pastoral lifestyle, so cattle is very important to them.

These slides represent just a small sample of the numerous and diverse tribes found throughout Ethiopia. I am excited to share images such as these with my future daughters. Hopefully they will be proud to call these people their own; they are a part of their amazing heritage!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The 7 Stages of Waiting for an International Adoption Referral

When I was in college, I took several psychology classes, and in one of them, I remember studying about the 7 Stages of Grief. I don't know if you are familiar with them, but it really made sense to me that when a person is confronted with a major life event such as the death of a beloved person, the grieving person will move through a series of steps in order to reconcile and make sense out of something that may be too difficult to deal with all at once. The 7 stages of grief are shock and denial; pain and guilt; anger and bargaining; depression, reflection, and loneliness; the upward turn; reconstruction and working through; and finally acceptance and hope. I think that there is a correlation between grieving and waiting for an adoption referral in that just as there are steps in dealing with grief, there are steps in dealing with the intense feelings of waiting for the referral of your future children. I recall that when we were waiting for L's referral, I went through several distinct stages, and I find that I'm going through the exact same stages while waiting for Laurel and Willow's referral. So, upon deep and personal reflection, I have, for your reading pleasure, constructed the official "7 Stages of Waiting for an International Adoption Referral"!

The 1st stage of waiting is, I believe, very similar to the 1st stage of grieving; shock and denial. You are shocked that all of the insanely complicated and sometimes almost impossibly unattainable paperwork is compiled, completed, notarized, apostilled, and shipped off to some foreign country you've never been to and cannot easily locate on a map. You may be in denial because you cannot believe that you were capable of finding and retrieving documents you didn't even know existed within our sometimes inefficient government bureaucracy.

The 2nd stage of waiting is different than the 2nd stage of grieving in that they are polar opposites; excitement and optimism as opposed to pain and guilt. You are over the moon with knowing that you have reached this important stage of the adoption journey. You are optimistic that the wait will go quickly. You say to yourself, "4 to 6 months is nothing! That's just a blink of an eye, the drop of a hat!" and other corny euphemisms. Excitement is flowing through your veins because you know that soon, very soon, you will see the faces of your new children.

The 3rd stage of waiting is discouragement and distraction. The excitement of stage 2 has worn off, and it seems that time. . . is. . . moving. . .very. . . slow. . .ly. . . !. . . !. . . ! You know that your referral will happen, but the months of waiting that are stretched out in front of you seem insurmountable. You try to keep busy, and there is a flurry of plans being made in order to distract yourself. This is all to no avail because that feeling of discouragement keeps seeping back into your consciousness and even into your subconsciousness because strange dreams begin to make appearances when you sleep.

The 4th stage of waiting is similar to the 4th stage of grieving in that you begin to experience feelings of depression (not clinical mind you) and fear. You start to think that your referral call will never come and that maybe there is something wrong with your dossier paperwork. Intense and irrational fear ensues along with random tears. Thoughts such as these start swirling around in your head: "The orphanage lost my paperwork!", "Maybe my desired criteria regarding age and sex of children are too narrow!", and my personal favorite, "Perhaps they just don't like me!". At this stage, you assign a special ring tone on your cell phone to coincide with your agency's phone number.

The 5th stage of waiting is numbness. You don't feel anything when you think about the referral, adoption, traveling, the whole thing. You just stop feeling anything at all and try to get on with your life. You begin putting up a wall between yourself and the adoption. You don't keep contemplating paint colors for the nursery, and you stop looking at the stuff in the baby section of Target. Guarding your heart is common during this stage.

The 6th stage of waiting is reconciliation. You begin to realize that your referral will come in due time; that there is a divine plan of events already set in motion in order to bring together a bunch of people who are destined to be a part of each others' lives forever. You still are guarding your heart, but there is a faint glimmer of hope and excitement present once again.

The 7th stage of waiting is complete and utter bliss! You finally, FINALLY receive THE CALL from your agency!!!!! You gaze upon pictures of your new children with the realization that you have become a parent once more. The discouragement, fear, and numbness dissolve into the background, and you begin to understand that all of your hard work and waiting has paid off. Now you have something tangible, SOMEONE in fact, to cling to and to persevere for as opposed to some abstract child who is out there somewhere in the great nebulous mass of humanity. This feeling of bliss and parental instinct will keep you going as you move through the 7 Stages of Waiting for Your Adoption to be Finalized! I'm just kidding. . . sort of!

Friday, April 9, 2010

By the Way. . .

When I say that we are adopting from Ethiopia, I am always asked two questions in exactly the same order. The first is "When will the children come home?", and the second one is "How much is the adoption costing you?". Well, the answer to the first question is "Hopefully around October, but we'll see.", and the answer to the second question is the following long and well-itemized answer.

The cost, thus far, to bring home 2 baby girls from Ethiopia is. . .

1. Homestudy fingerprint fee for Tony and I: $212.00

2. Application fee for Dove Adoptions: $100.00

3. First installment of homestudy fee: $1000.00

4. Second installment of homestudy fee: $1,048.00

5. First installment to Dove Adoptions: $3,000.00

6. Second installment to Dove Adoptions: $6,000.00

7. Third installment to Dove Adoptions: $9,100.00

8. I-600A petition to classify foreign orphan as an immediate family member: $650.00

9. Department of Homeland Security fingerprint fee for Tony and I: $160.00

10. State of Colorado background checks for Tony and I: $60.00

11. City of LQ background checks for Tony and I: $68.00

12. Certified copies of birth certificates for all family members: $219.00

13. Passports: $300.00

14. Passport photos: $10.85

15. Adoption physicals (not covered by our medical insurance!): $246.00

16. Adoption education classes as required by our agencies: $400.00

17. Notary fees: $366.00

18. Apostille fees: $40.00

19. Dossier photos: $24.16

20. Photocopies: $5.77

21. Postage: 21.90

And the grand total so far is. . .!!!!!!!!!!!!!!: $23,031.68

All in all, the Ethiopian adoption costs are far below the fees for other countries who have international adoption programs. In Russia, for example, the cost is over $50,000 when you factor in travel and lodging fees. We are anticipating spending around $12,000 for air fare and lodging fees which is not bad in the grand scheme of things, especially now that we need to take two trips to Ethiopia! We will also need to get travel vaccinations for Yellow Fever, Typhoid, and Hepatitis A and B (we are still considering getting the Rabies vaccinations as recommended by our adoption agency and the Center for Disease Control) as well as medications for Malaria and Cipro tablets for extreme traveler's diarrhea which should cost us $2,500 because our insurance will not cover these things. We also need to purchase medical evacuation insurance which should be a few hundred dollars as well as rent an international cell phone. I did not count the $12.00 we paid for the yummy cookies we bought at Panera to feed to our social worker during our home visits, but I will factor in around $1000.00 for spending money when we travel because we want to purchase Ethiopian items to give to our daughters on their birthdays and other special occasions. I find that when I see money flying out of our bank account at an alarmingly fast rate, I shrug my shoulders and say "It's only money!". Really, it is only money! We have good food to eat, a comfortable home, adequate clothing, and a machine that makes great coffee. What more do we really need? Yes it's a bit tight right now financially speaking, but I know deep down that we are doing what we were always meant to do which is open our home and family to two little souls who need us (we need them too, by the way). People are what matter, not new cars, fancy appliances, huge houses, and other material trappings. Tony and I willingly and gladly shell out obscene amounts of money for a cause that is priceless; building our family and welcoming more children into our home!

And Yet Another "Adoption Alert"!

Yesterday afternoon we received yet another "adoption alert" from our agency. While I am extremely glad that our agency works hard to keep their adoptive parents in the loop regarding the new court procedures being implemented in Ethiopia, I still find myself needing to take a couple of deep breaths in order to calm my nerves! According to Dove adoptions, the implementation of the new court procedures regarding adopting parents needing to take two trips is being extended to April 30, 2010. This extension was granted because, and I quote our agency, "the extension is to allow the Federal First Instance Court and the Ministry of Women's Affairs additional time to develop guidelines and procedures for implementing this process. Both organizations are working to have all documentation in place when the court appointment is scheduled to decrease the possibility of additional postponements after prospective adoptive parents make their appearance at court." I think, if I read this correctly, this is a good thing! Ethiopian court proceedings are notorious for delay after delay after delay in granting an adoption decree and legal custody for a variety of reasons; one being rolling power outages in the capital city of Addis Ababa, and the other being that in order for a child to be elegible for adoption, he or she needs to be classified as a "true orphan". In Ethiopia, with its tribal and extended family based society, if a child's parents die, then any, and I mean ANY family member is traditionally expected to step up and care for the child. During the court proceedings, the child's next of kin is expected to make an appearance to state to the judge that they cannot care for the child in question thus classifying the child as a "true orphan", and the next of kin can range from an 18-year-old sibling to an 80-year-old grandmother! Court proceedings can only take place in Addis Ababa, and the feasibility of traveling to the capital city is difficult at best and nearly impossible for most Ethiopian people hence creating many court delays! If I read the above quote correctly, then I can safely guess that the new court procedures are hopefully going to eliminate the multiple court postponements by making sure that the proper "true orphan" status can be applied to our future children! Dove has also stated that in the past six months, 42 children have been abandoned in Ethiopia by their American adoptive parents! How insane is that? In court, Tony and I will be required by Ethiopian law to swear that we will not, under any circumstances, abandon our children after being granted legal custody. This is a statement that I will be more than happy to swear to! I still, to this day, do not understand what can possess some people to abandon a child who is legally theirs thus further victimizing an already victimized child. Your guess is as good as mine!!!!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Just the Facts Part Two!

The other day I wrote about some of the more sobering facts regarding the hardships the people of Ethiopia face on a daily basis. What I want to present to you today is the other side of Ethiopia, a country that is diverse, beautiful, interesting, and dynamic. So here goes nothing!

Did you know that Ethiopia. . .

Follows the Julian calendar, which comprises twelve months of thirty days each and a thirteenth month of five days (or six days in a leap year). The calendar is seven years and eight months behind the Western (Gregorian) calendar with Christmas being celebrated on January 7 and New Year on September 11?

Does not adjust for Daylight Savings?

Has an official language called Amharic?

Is the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant?

Was the birth place of the Queen of Sheba?

Was never colonized or conquered except once by the Italians?

Is the source of the Nile River?

Is home to "Lucy" the skeleton of the oldest human being?

Is home to the Mursi tribe, one of the fiercest in Africa, famous for the women wearing lip-plates? They used the lip-plates to protect themselves from slave-traders and began the practice in order to appear less attractive to those who might capture and sell them.

Is a land of lush green pastures and meadows, thick forests, and plentiful lakes?

As you can see, Ethiopia is a fascinating country full if interesting places, people, and traditions. One good thing that I can see coming out of us taking two trips there is that Tony and I will get to spend more time exploring this unique country!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Waiting, Waiting, and More Waiting!

All I have to say about waiting for our referral is "GRRRRRRRRRRR!" with a lot of hair-pulling thrown in for good measure!