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After all of the excitement lately (see below) we completely forgot that yesterday, the 27th, was our 6 month anniversary of being DTE and officially waiting for our daughter.  We usually count down the days to the next months marker, but it was late last night before we even realized that it was the 27th. 

So we have been officially waiting now for six months.  America World Adoption (our agency) still says that the expected wait time for a baby girl referral will be 7 - 11 months.  So that means that within the next 1 - 5 months we should receive our referral.  On the unofficial waiting list, we are currently tied with three other families at 8, which makes us between 8th and 10th.  Which my mother and sister graciously pointed out would be 9th.
 
 
Most of you probably already know that I have a type of brain tumor called an acoustic neuroma.  For those of you who didn’t know, now you do.  Here is my very long story of how we came to find out and how we’re dealing with it now. 

Just before Christmas of 2009 I noticed that I was having a hard time hearing on the phone when I held it to my left ear.  It seemed to get better, but then it seemed to get worse, so Logan forced me to go get the free hearing test here in town.  I felt a little out of place in the waiting room, being the only one without a walker.  I took the hearing test and the technician showed me that I was having slight difficulty hearing low tones out of my left ear.  He said it was nothing to worry about and to come back in six months if I was still having trouble.  So I left and felt better with the peace of mind.

Over the next couple of months it didn’t get better and I actually felt like it might be getting worse.  So once again Logan made me go take the hearing test.  This time I felt a little like a hypochondriac when he told me that my hearing really wasn’t any worse than it was before.

In May, I went to an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor in Bloomington, because Logan and I still felt like it was getting worse and we were getting nervous.  He told me that it may have been a virus that had destroyed some of the nerves in that ear.  He also told me not to worry about it and to come back in six months if it was still a problem.  We were relieved.  We tried to put it out of our minds.

This Fall it continued to get worse.  It got to the point that I could no longer tell whose voice it was on the phone through my left ear.  I couldn’t hear if someone whispered in my left ear in church.  One night, we were riding in the car with our best friend, whose sister once had a golf ball size brain tumor.   He overheard us joking about my hearing loss and he said, “My sister lost her hearing in one ear.”  The car got quiet and in the backseat I thought, “Oh crap.”  But I didn’t really consider it as an actual possibility.  I mean, we were in the middle of an adoption and surely that is enough excitement for one year.  Besides, the only thing the doctors had said about a tumor- was that it definitely wasn’t a tumor.

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Logan and I started to realize that my hearing had gotten really bad.  I couldn’t distinguish a single word on the phone through my left ear and if I covered my right ear with a pillow I couldn’t hear Logan’s normal speaking voice with him standing right in front of me.  He once again demanded, this time in a not so subtle way, that I see the Ear, Nose and Throat doctor.  So we scheduled an appointment for January 18th, 2011. 

Logan went with me to that appointment, even though I couldn’t imagine why he would need to.  The doctor once again assured us that it was nothing more than a virus, but that if my hearing was truly worse he would order an MRI just as a formality.  So I went for my fourth hearing test and I very quickly realized that my hearing was without a doubt much worse.  I found out later that my ability to recognize words in my left ear had dropped from 80% in May to 16% in January.  At one point in the test the technician actually told me that my hearing had gotten significantly worse and she asked if I had ringing in my ears.  I told her I did, but only about once a day for the past couple of months.  I could see a thought register on her face, and something about her expression made me think “Oh crap” again.  I started crying as soon as I saw Logan in the waiting room, and I was really glad that I had let him come with me.

They scheduled an MRI and we went that Friday night.  Turns out I am horribly, horribly claustrophobic.  That was the most miserable experience of my life.  Next time, I will request drugs.

That Sunday, Archie preached from the book of Job.  He reminded us that we are all too happy to accept the good things that God gives us, but when he brings us something bad, we often shake our fists and say, “Why me?!”  As if in response to his words, there was a high pitch ringing in my left ear.  And once again, I thought, “Oh crap.”

Monday afternoon, alone at Smidgens with eight children, I got the call.  I have a tumor, called an acoustic neuroma, on the left side between my inner ear and brain.  I had just enough time to call Logan, call my mom, Google “acoustic neuroma” and read a few brief articles before the kids started to wake up from their naps.  I didn’t cry or panic or crawl off to a corner to die, like I would have assumed I would have reacted.  I doubt that the mothers noticed I was any more frazzled that afternoon than I am on an average Monday afternoon.

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We started researching websites, physicians, and I joined an acoustic neuroma yahoo group.  We briefly decided that radiation was the answer, but we’ve since decided that surgery is probably the right choice.  We met with Dr. Fritsch, an otolaryngologist, in Indianapolis who explained everything really well.  The tumor is not cancerous and it is slow growing.  My tumor (which my lovely family has named Earl, spelled capital E-A-R little l) is only 1 ½ centimeters long.  
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It really wouldn’t be that bad of a thing at all, if it weren’t for the location.  This kind of tumor grows off of the balance nerve and presses again the hearing and facial nerve.  After surgery I will probably lose all of my hearing and will learn to compensate with just one balance nerve.  There is a risk of facial paralysis if the facial nerve is destroyed.  I can deal with losing the rest of my hearing on this side and some balance problems, but I am praying that I won’t have any damage to my facial nerve. 
We are planning to have my surgery at the House Ear Clinic in Los Angeles.  I will have to be in LA for two weeks.  Certain members of the family (Tyler) think they are going to make a nice vacation out of my misfortune. 

After I was diagnosed, I spent the first few weeks feeling pretty good, but I think I was in a little bit of denial.  It’s a lot to get your mind around.  A brain tumor.  How can that be?  I’m 29 and I feel fine.  But slowly it has sunk in and over this past week I have had a few very bad days.

But that is where the friends part comes into play.  Of course Logan and my parents and his parents and our extended family have been supportive and wonderful.  Logan has been amazing and I wonder if I would be able to do as good of a job for him as he is doing for me.  And my parents are taking care of us in ways that only ones own parents would.

My friends have also been amazing.  They have offered to do everything from working at Smidgens, to cleaning my house and bringing me food.  (DO NOT ever clean my house, I would be too embarrassed.  DO bring me food, anytime.  Like, even right now.)

Beyond even those who have known me for years… there has been this new layer of support coming to the surface these past few weeks.  These are the people who really amaze me.  I’ve talked to Amanda in San Francisco who made this amazing blog called Think like a Ninja to document her own acoustic neuroma experience.  I’ve spoken on the phone and through email with Ella, a woman who had surgery at the House Clinic just two weeks ago.  She called me just days after her own surgery to tell me how it went.  And the group on the America World Adoption YahooGroup has come through for me with well-wishes and prayers like I had never dreamed.  I told them my story one night at 8:30 and by noon the next day I had almost 40 people respond with the most thoughtful, meaningful words I’ve ever read.  Three different people who live in the Los Angeles area have offered to help us out while we’re there. 

When I combined all of the responses and emails from YahooGroup alone into a Word file it was 13 pages long.

Finding out that I have a brain tumor has really stunk.  I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.  But the friends and family that have circled around me have made this completely bearable.  They have made it awfully hard to find time to feel sorry for myself. 

So I want to say thank you.  I know there is a long road ahead of us… but it helps to know that I won’t be alone.



 
 
 It was this day in 2010 that Brandy and I were accepted into America World’s Ethiopia program. It seems like it’s been more than a year - maybe because we’ve been in the adoptive mindset for so long. Nevertheless, many things have changed in a year. Here are the main three things adoption has taught me:

1.)  I've learned that there are a lot of people in the world. And of those people, many have it much worse than you and I. Take Ethiopia, for instance. Some people in Ethiopia don't wonder when their next meal will be, but rather if they'll eat again at all.
This wasn’t news to me a year ago. I’ve always known that Ethiopia has had its share of problems. But when you start to think about the fact that there are 4+ million orphans in their country alone, or that AIDS, a disease that’s somewhat treatable here in the States, is an automatic death sentence to most Ethiopians, you begin to realize just how much we take for granted. Imagine the feeling you get when the local news warns of possible water shortages and power outages after a big storm. We run to the grocery store and buy as much as we possible can no matter what the need. We fill up the gas tanks in our vehicles and collect water in buckets and bath tubs. We start to panic a bit - not much, but enough to make us realize what we have. Now, imagine having that same kind of panic (only amplified) every single day and not having the resources for survival readily available.

2.) I’ve learned there are many forms of patience. When Brandy was pregnant with River, we could see progress as time passed. But those nine months still felt like an eternity. After a long labor, River was transferred to a children’s hospital where he stayed for nearly a month. At just one-day-old, he underwent surgery to fix a blockage in his digestive system. He’s fine now and has been ever since the surgery, but it took his body the duration of the hospital stay to learn how to digest properly. I remember sitting at his bedside wondering when we were ever going to get to go home as a family. So far, the adoption process has been completely opposite from what we experienced with River. For one, progress hasn’t been measured in trimesters or belly size, but rather by the amount of paperwork we’ve completed. And we still don’t even know if our daughter’s been born considering our age request of 0 to 9 months. I thought sitting by River’s side in a hospital room was the ultimate test in patience, but at least we were by his side, holding and loving him, getting to know him better with each new day. For me, knowing that our daughter is halfway around the globe, either in her biological mother’s belly or in an orphanage, has brought about a new kind of patience and faith that I didn’t have a year ago.

3.) I’ve learned that one person CAN make a difference. I used to be a bit skeptical of that phrase. Not that I didn’t believe it somewhat, but I just never fully realized how true it can be. This year, I’ve seen so many people come out of the woodwork willing to help us with whatever they can. Our families and friends have been so extremely supportive - everyone has used their talents and come together all for the sake of helping us get our little girl home. They’ve helped us with fundraising efforts as well as sewing diaper covers for Ethiopian orphanages. If all of those people had talked themselves out of helping for whatever reason, Brandy and I would have gone crazy by now. So, to all of you who have given your time, money, talent, and love, we thank you and are forever grateful. It might be an overstatement to say that our daughter will make the biggest difference of all, but, looking around, it’s apparent that she already has.


 
 
Tonight we were in the car and out of the blue River says, "I will share my room with Sissy."  I said, "Oh you will?" and he said, "I will share my bed with her too."  Then he said, "And I will wrap my blankey around her and she will not cry." 

Well, that made me cry.

Later, when we were talking about what a sweet thing he had said, he said, "I will love she and she will just play with me!" 

I just wish that she could know, and her family could know, that we are waiting for her.  And she is going to have the best big brother a girl could ever have. 
 
 
This is a post that I have wanted to write since we first started our blog.  This article was part of the required reading for our Hauge Training during the early stages of our adoption.  This was probably the most valuable thing I read during the training.  This puts into words what we want so badly for everyone to know.  There IS a right and a wrong way to talk about adoption. 

Standing with River in the grocery store two weeks ago, yet another well-intentioned person was flabbergasted when I told her we were adopting and immediately (and loudly) asked me "But don't you want more of your OWN?!"

Which leads me to this article.  If you're going to be a part of Baby Wade's life, please read this and take it to heart. 

Do’s:
  • Do treat her like any other kid. It may be difficult and take a while for adopted children to feel like they belong within their extended families. Treating these children like they're “just like everyone else” can go a long way toward making them feel at home and comfortable within the group.
  • Avoid the temptation to spoil her because she didn't have everything that the other kids had in the first few months or years of her life. The most valuable gifts you can offer these children are patience, routine, acceptance, and consistency -- and most of all, unexaggerated expressions of love and devotion.
  • Do support her when curious strangers ask questions.  When curious (and sometimes thoughtless) strangers ask questions or feel the need to comment on the circumstances of the adoption, do not let them lead you into uncomfortable territory. Instead, gently steer them back to more suitable small talk or respond in such a way that shifts the conversation to positive adoption language that in turn lets the child know that you are on her side.
  • Do respect her privacy. Adopted children have the same need for and the right to privacy as you do.  They do not want their entire life story being told to strangers. If she hears you discussing the intimate details of her origins, she will likely feel embarrassed. Until the child is old enough to decide for herself how much information she would like to share regarding her background, please respect her privacy.
  • Do treat prospective adoptive parents the same as expectant parents and tell your friends and family to treat you the same also. Adopting a child is just as exciting for soon-to-be parents as being pregnant.  They feel the same way all expectant parents do -- overjoyed, overwhelmed, nervous, impatient, and most of all, excited. Don't be afraid to ask adopting parents about these feelings. After all, adoption is neither a secret nor a source of embarrassment or shame.
  • Do acknowledge and celebrate the differences. One of the best things you can do to show your support as well as your love for the adopted child in your life is to learn a bit about the culture and history of her birth country. Read a couple of books, especially travel books. Even if you have no plans to travel there, there is no better way to get the feeling of another country.
Don'ts:
  • Don't introduce the child as adopted. Adoption is a legal act that occurs once and is done, not who someone becomes. “She was adopted on January 15, 2007” is correct; “this is my adopted daughter” is not! The pain this inflicts on the child is obvious. The child is made to feel inferior, like she will never be considered a real part of the family. The rule is simple: Don't ever, ever do this.
  •  Don't tell her or others how "lucky" she is. Don’t say that you “saved” him. After hearing this enough times, the child can be made to feel like a lifelong charity case, rather than the cherished child s/he is. Yes, the child is lucky, but so is any child who has a supportive, loving family. And we parents are lucky, too, to have been able to create this loving, supportive family.
  •  People should avoid assuming that adoption is a second choice. The reasons people choose to adopt are as varied and unique as the people themselves. While it is true that many choose adoption because of infertility, it is also true that many choose adoption for a myriad of other reasons as well.  Many people choose to adopt not because they are out of other options, but rather because they believe that adoption is the best choice for them.
  •  Don't jump to conclusions about the birth mother. Often thought of as weak, irresponsible, cheap, and worthless, birth mothers often suffer a lifetime of pain far greater than that of childbirth. Please don't jump to the wrong conclusion that these women are any different than you and me or that they love their children any less.
  • Most cross-cultural adoptive families know little or nothing about the circumstances that led their child's birth mother to relinquish her child. What they do know is that they can acknowledge their children's birth mothers with love and respect because they are a part of their children and it is because of them that their beloved children are who they are.
  • Don't tell an adoptive parent that if, after adoption, they give birth they will have "one of your own" now. She is our own. Those parents who choose adoption because of infertility do not secretly harbor lifelong yearnings for a biological child. Having "our own" is now irrelevant; the child we have is the one we want and it is inconceivable that we could love or want any child more. Like all parents, we have the best.
 
 
Happy Valentine's Day! 

Ethiopia has a booming floriculture industry.  Many of the roses delivered today in Europe will actually come from Ethiopia.  I found this odd little video produced by National Geographic a few years ago, that explains more.  I don't know if it was a problem with the translation or if the beautiful woman at the end of the video really would kill her boyfriend, but I laughed out loud!  Enjoy and have a wonderful Valentine's Day! 

 
 
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As a graphic designer and part-time painter, I'm attracted to color. Whether it's print, television, product packaging, or household items, bold, bright colors catch my eye. Back in November, Brandy and I attended an Ethiopian Celebration in Indianapolis. There were Ethiopian songs, dances, musical instruments, and food. They also had a table displaying traditional Ethiopian items. The things that caught my eye most were the hand-woven baskets. Not only were they interesting in shape and size, but the colors used were bold and bright. The striped patterns were not only fun to view, but extremely detailed. Some had colorful zigzags that looked like a psychedelic version of Charlie Brown's famous polo shirt. 

I'd like to buy a few of these vibrant works of art when we're in Ethiopia as a small reminder of our daughter's birthplace, culture, and people. 


 
 
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One of the first questions we usually get is, "What are you going to name her?"  When we were pregnant with River we had decided on Alice Amelia if he were a girl.  But this baby will already have a name and we would like to honor that as much as possible.  So we're waiting to find out what her name is and how she received it. 

Usually the second question is, "So what do Ethiopian names sound like?" I've made a list of some common Ethiopian names for boys and girls and their meanings.

Girls
Makeda- beautiful (this was the first name of the Queen of Sheba, an Ethiopian)
Selam- peaceful
Amhara- the Amhara people
Genat- heaven
Magdala- central highland town
Selamawit- she is peaceful
Aamina- safe
Meskerem- a month in the year

Boys
Benian- form of Benjamin
Dawit- form of David
Desta- happiness (both male and female)
Iskinder- form of Alexander (also means defender of the mankind)
Tariku- events surrounding his birth
Tefere- seed
Yohannas- God's gracious gift
Amare- handsome

In Ethiopia a child takes his or her father's first name as his or her last name.  So rather than being River Wade, he would be River Logan.  Women in Ethiopia do not change their name when they get married.  For this reason parents and children in Ethiopia do not share the same last name.  Mr. is Ato, Mrs. is Woizero (Wzo.) and Miss is Woizerit (Wzt.). So if we were Ethiopian we would be Ato Logan Steven, Woizero Brandy Daryn, and River Logan. 

Here is a website with more information about naming in Ethiopia: http://www.myethiopianame.bravehost.com/index.html


Leave a comment if you have more examples or more information to add about Ethiopian names.

 
 
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Tim and Angi Cooper, from Bloomfield, Indiana,  are having a Pampered Chef fundraiser to raise money for Aerie Paige's plane ticket home.  Personally, I LOVE Pampered Chef.  I love the spatulas, the small prep bowls, the chopper,  the measuring spoons, the baking stones, the cookbooks and especially the garlic press.  I really miss the old days when Lori sold Pampered Chef and would give me lots of free stuff!

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If you would like to purchase Pampered Chef products from the Coopers and support their adoption you can click here:

http://www.pamperedchef.biz/DrucksKitchen


To shop simply click on the link above, once on this Pampered Chef site, choose "our products" then type in Cooper Adoption Fundraiser into the hostess name line.

(please be sure to type in "Cooper Adoption Fundraiser" when ordering) 

Order now through March 3rd, 2011.

If you would like to donate to the Coopers adoption without purchasing Pampered Chef you can donate directly by using their donate button on their blog: http://www.allforaerie.blogspot.com/
 
 
We are slowly making progress moving all of these diapers from our front porch to the orphanages in Ethiopia.  We've had several great volunteer families willing to pack our diapers and covers and take them with them when they travel to Ethiopia in March.  Here is a picture of all of the space bagged diapers and covers that we are mailing off just this week. 
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With each bag of diapers and covers we are sending a laminated instruction sheet.  The instructions are just five pictures (no words) of how to use the cloth diaper with the cover.  That way the instructions can be followed by anyone without any translation and hopefully, being laminated, they will last a long time.

All of our diaper-cover-making packets have been taken from our church and many have already been returned!  We still have 6 or 7 packets that I will take out this Sunday (unless I hear from someone who wants them first).  I actually made some covers all by myself this week and I only have a BASIC knowledge of sewing.  If you don't live in our area I can email you the instructions and pattern.  The instructions are very easy to follow.

I hope that when it is our turn to travel to Ethiopia we see some of these diaper covers actually in use!  With all of the resources we have here, there is no reason that a baby in Ethiopia should be without any diaper at all.  Yet, this is the reality for most babies in orphanages.  We hope to supply the orphanages that AWAA uses with enough diapers and covers that they no longer have a problem.  But there are many, many more orphanages and many more babies.  Hopefully we can get enough covers and enough diapers sent over that our orphanages can share with others in need. 

Thank you Lori for helping us get started and donating so much of your own time and talent to our cause.  And thank you to all of the women in Greene County who have already taken these packets and made our covers!  We can't thank you enough.  And thank you to Brittony for your generous and much needed donation!  (Some of your space bags are already in the mail!) 

So if you would like a packet or instructions let me know!  Also, if you would like to donate to our cause, so that we can continue making these covers, you can use our donate button on the side.  Just specify that the donation is for diaper covers.