We decided last month, after our three month home study update, that it might be interesting to write a little bit about how we honestly felt during our first three months home.  

For us, each month was completely different and we don't want to forget how it all played out.  We separately wrote down our thoughts and didn't read what the other wrote until we were finished so that our memories and feelings would truly be our own.  This is what we wrote...

Month One - WHAT HAVE WE DONE?  August 2012

Logan:  I don't really know how to summarize this, but here goes. For over two years we waited for our baby girl. Near the middle of July, we got clearance to finally go pick her up and bring her home. It was a good time for us. There was so much rejoicing in our house among friends and family. I'll never forget those days. It was sometime shortly after reading the US Embassy's approval email that I came to the realization of what it all meant. We were bringing home a little 9-month-old baby. That's a bit intimidating in itself. Plus, I had been out of baby-mode for a few years, given our son River is now 4-and-a-half years old. The reality of it all came crashing in on us. For two years I had been focused on getting her home. Nothing more.

In-country, Willow was really no trouble at all – she napped well, ate well, and slept peacefully throughout each night. My previous thoughts about the reality of it all slowly diminished. I started giving myself a hard time, laughing internally saying: Logan, what were you so worried about...

Flash forward to the homecoming. Somewhere, at some point, something happened. We took our baby away from the mountains of Central Ethiopia, to Frankfurt, Germany, then thousands of miles across the Atlantic, and finally home. Indeed, something happened. Baby got fussy.

It seemed for the entirety of August, we just couldn't do anything right. Willow was away from everything she ever knew. Nothing was familiar to her. The sleeping baby from Ethiopia seemed more like an angry insomniac. I had taken her young age for granted – thinking that at only 9-months she wouldn't care much about these changes. I was wrong. And I started to feel intimidated yet again.

Brandy:  Nothing prepared me for the first month home.  None of the seminars, books, inspirational pep-talks from other moms... nothing prepared me.  One day I was crying on the floor of her bedroom begging God to just please let her come home and one month later I was crying on her bedroom floor because she just won't. stop. crying.  And I'm pretty sure that she hates me.  And I'm wondering if we've made a terrible mistake.  And I don't think that life will ever be normal again.  

Month Two- FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT  September 2012

Logan: The rough nights of August carried over into September. Though, by this point, we had become pros, had ironed-out the tedious details of our daily routine. We took shifts - every other night was mine to console a sleepless Willow. It became a science to keep our ancient wood floors from creaking with every step. I realized near the end of September that these things take time. Willow was in a new world – everything was foreign. I stopped getting so frustrated and started to have more patience with her when she would become upset. It was at this point that the survival-mode that ruled our lives in August suddenly vanished. I started to feel like a dad to this little baby.

Brandy:  This month we took control.  We set boundaries.  We limited visitors and trips out of the house.  I talked to many, many other moms who had brought home screaming, restless, scared babies from other countries.  She started taking a pacifier.  She started taking naps in the swing.  She actually slept through the night.  But still every little thing- every conversation, every bedtime, every trip to the store- was more complicated, more stressful, more emotionally loaded than ever before.  But we were surviving.
Month Three- A NEW NORMAL  October 2012

LoganAs many of you know, October flew by. I only had time to watch The Great Pumpkin twice. Needless to say, Brandy and I were extremely busy. We started doing more, venturing out, living our lives with our children. Willow became so much more comfortable around us, our families, friends, and her entire environment. She slept better and had shed the tense shell she surrounded herself with in those first weeks home.

I can't stress enough how life-changing adoption has been for me and Brandy – not just as parents, but as people. It's been amazing to watch River transform into a wonderful older brother – playing with his little sister, kissing her cheeks, speaking to her in humorous, playful voices. Sure, there have been rough days. But in the end, it's a blessing. We are truly blessed to be a part of this little girl's life, to watch her grow. 

Willow's great-aunt told us in person and through video that she wants Willow to learn – that is, after all, what her Ethiopian name “Temar” means – to be a student, to learn. 

And, fulfilling that promise, by our girl's side, we will learn.

Brandy: We weren't scared of her anymore.  We started to realize that after all she had been through, she was really going to be OKAY.  She started to smile at us, run to us, play with us, snuggle with us like a mommy and daddy.    I stopped thinking of her as a fragile responsibility and started to think of her as my other kid.  My daughter.  And at some invisible moment in time we became a family. 
For a $25 donation to our friend David's van in Ethiopia, you can get this awesome t-shirt, but it's only for today (Sunday)!  Shirts will be delivered in time for Christmas.  Update: We're leaving the shirt up through Monday.  

Join the campaign here:  I Drive Ethiopia 

To read more about our experience with David, and why we really hope he's able to purchase a van: Read Here 
What you need to know:

  • `HIV is considered a chronic but manageable disease with proper treatment.
    `Children who receive treatment are expected to live a normal lifespan.

  • `HIV has never been transmitted in normal family living conditions.

  • `You NEVER have to fear contracting HIV through casual contact with an HIV+ person.

  • `HIV is spread in three main ways: sexual contact, IV drug use through the sharing of dirty needles, mother to infant (pregnancy, birth or breast feeding.)

  • `All around the world orphans are overlooked for adoption because of their HIV+ status.

  • `Medications called ARVs can mean the difference between life and death.

  • `The combination of three or more ARVs is called HAART. (Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy)

  • `With medications HIV can be effectively managed to the point that the virus is undetectable in laboratory tests.

  • `There is a term for the miraculous transformation HIV+ people undergo when they begin receiving the medications they need.   The Lazarus Effect is a term commonly used to describe people who were once on the brink of death who have been restored again to health through medication.

For more information on World AIDS Day:  http://www.worldaidsday.org/

For more information on HIV+ Adoption: http://www.projecthopeful.org/

For photo listings of HIV+ Orphans:  http://reecesrainbow.org/category/waitingchildren/hiv-0-5
And the winner is.... KELLY!!   

And to those other wonderful eleven people who so generously commented... if you are interested in a copy of Levi's book, please email me at brandydwade (at) gmail (dot) com.  ;) 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! 
I have been wanting to do a giveaway for weeks.  We have some wonderful goodies from the festival in October and I have two copies of an amazing book to giveaway!  

So here is the thing... I'm calling this a Thanksgiving Giveaway, but what it should really be called is a "Who the heck are all of you people?" Giveaway.

I am dying to know who is out there reading this thing every day!  If you take away the comments on how cute the kids are that our moms leave, we get 0 comments.  But our number of views is getting higher all the time.  So who are all of you?  I can account for about ten of you.  The rest of you... I have no idea.  I am thankful for every single person and I really want to know who you are.  

So please, reveal thyselves!!  Stop being lurkers and tell me who you are!  Just leave a comment.  We can be friends.

River will pick a number on Saturday at 7:30 pm and that number person on the comments list will win!  

So here is what you get... 
On behalf of Bring Love In 
  • Two copies of No Greater Love by Levi Benkert - One for you and one for you to give as a gift.
  • A large fabric handbag made in Burkino Faso from African material

On behalf of Because Every Mother Matters
  • A handmade card 

On behalf of Love Is... Ethiopia
  • An I Heart Africa bumper sticker

All you have to do to win is a leave a comment.  But in fairness, if you haven't checked out these organizations in the past, please take a few minutes to check them out now.  They are doing amazing things in Ethiopia today.

Good luck everyone!!  And please leave me a comment!!  

This is your chance to give a man in a 
third-world country a job opportunity.  

Let me tell you our story...

When we went to court in Ethiopia back in April we were there for something like eleven days.  Since we were the only family there for most of that time, we got to know our driver and our guides REALLY well.  
David, Logan, me, and Yonas
Upon arrival in Ethiopia we handed David a big stack of our American money and he left us to go exchange it.  Logan and I looked at each other like... "What did we just do?  We don't even know this guy."  But he came right back with all of our money exchanged and over those first few days we started to realize just how really trustworthy these guys were, how much faith they had in God, and how big of a place they had in their hearts for the children in the transition home and orphanages.  

We watched David with the kids in the transition home.  He was like a big brother to the older boys.  He let them climb around in his van and hang out with him.  He'd sit and talk to them.  He'd tease them, joke with them and just spent time with them.  
In this picture it looks like he's talking about something very serious, but he's actually drawing a goofy, unflattering cartoon picture of the boy sitting beside him, trying to convince him that it looks just like him.

Since we were in Ethiopia for so many days and we were the only family there, we were able to talk to the guys a lot.  We learned a lot about the orphanages and a lot about Ethiopia.  It was during one conversation about the needs in the orphanages that David told us about the government orphanage.  

We knew we had to see it before we left.  So at the end of our trip we went to the government orphanage.  It was the worst of the worst of the orphanages we saw.  The needs there were astounding.  We were completely unprepared for the smell and the sound and the things we saw.  I'm sure that many of the babies we saw that day are no longer alive.  What we saw there changed us at our core.

And so it was because of David, and his directing us to the government orphanage, that we raised money for formula, made dolls, and collected donations to give to the orphanage on our return trip in July.  

When we returned to Ethiopia in July we were so excited to see the guys again.  I cried when Job met us at the airport.  But the next day we found out that David was, "on vacation."  After a couple more days and little prying we realized that "vacation" meant laid-off.  Thankfully, we were able to meet him one evening with some other friends.  

He was let go from his job as a driver.  He was out of work.  His family was counting on him.  He put his hands together and smiled and said, "God will take care of us.  He always has."

I've never seen faith like that.  We come from a country where most people say they believe in God, but when the first thing goes wrong they throw up their hands and say, WHY ME?  I've never seen someone living out real, honest faith that God would provide.  Someone who really had nothing but faith.  

That leads us to the next chapter in David's story.  We're not the only family to call David a friend.  And those friends back here in America have come together to create a campaign on a website called Indiegogo.com.  It's called I Drive Ethiopia.

We're hoping to raise just enough money to outright purchase a used van for David.  So that he can drive again.  Unfortunately, he won't be able to drive adoptive families any longer.  He was never an employee of our adoption agency, and with the loss of his job his connection to them is gone.  But he can find someone to drive.  He wants to work and with a van he'll find a way.

Is David a perfect person?  No.  Are there other Ethiopian fathers just as deserving of a job opportunity as he is?  Absolutely.  But we don't know those men.  We don't have a way to help them.  We do have a way to help David.  And we won't turn our backs on him.

Are there other charities more deserving of your money?  Absolutely, are you kidding me?  But this isn't a charity.  

This is an opportunity to give a man an opportunity.   

Do you want to be a part of it?  If so, here is the link: 

Whether or not you donate, please, please, please pass the link on!  Please help us spread the word!  The more views and the more times the Indiegogo share tools are utilized on the site, the higher our "gogofactor" and the more visible our campaign is on the site.   Thank you so much!  

A disclaimer for AWAA families.  For obvious ethical reasons AWAA can in no way be connected to this fundraising.  Please do not post this link on the AWAA Facebook group or YahooGroups.  

I am not going to lie, there are few things in this world that I enjoy more than a good donation collection.  I think it's the thrill of knowing that right now I have a few pair of shoes set aside in the garage, but just by asking, with your help, we can fill an entire suitcase with shoes in no time.  

There is always a little bit of fear with these posts that no one will respond.  That I'll put myself out there and no one will help me.  But I have never, ever been disappointed with the response.  Every single time we've asked for donations, we've been blown away by what we've received.  It is just so exciting to be a part of it.  

Bring Love In needs shoes for their children.  They asked for help on their blog this week and this is right up our alley.  The Larsen family is willing to take the shoes with them on their court trip.

What we need from everyone else are new or like-new durable shoes for children 5 - 12 years old.  We're looking for closed-toe tennis shoe type shoes.  Do you have something in your closet?  Can you spare a few dollars to buy a new pair?

"If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?" -James 2:15-16

The Larsens don't have a court date yet, but expect to travel in December or January.  So for now let's say we need the shoes by Sunday, December 9th.
October update pictures of the mother we sponsor in Dessie, Ethiopia. 
To learn more about this 3-year sponsorship program visit www.bemmteam.org
Every November the Indianapolis Grace Ethiopian Church holds a celebration of Ethiopian culture and adoption.  

We went for the first time two years ago.  We had just become DTE and we fully expected a referral within a few months.  We were a couple of naive kids... 

Last year we were just too depressed by the long wait to go to the event.  But this year, we were there, with our daughter!  

There was a huge buffet of Ethiopian food.   Willow ate it right up.  
She also showed off her new walking skills.
Both of our kids were really well behaved.
And we all had a really good time.  
The best part was at the end when they asked all of the children to come up to the stage to dance and sing.
I just discovered this neat service and I wanted to share it here.  For those folks out there searching for adoption agencies working in a certain country  Rainbow Kids has a simple form to fill out that is immediately submitted to several agencies, big and small, working in that country.  The agencies then contact you directly.  

First go to www.RainbowKids.com.

Click on Country Guidelines: www.rainbowkids.com/Countries/

Find the country that you are interested in and click on it.

Scroll down to the yellow bar that says, "To contact all agencies placing children from..." and fill out the form! 

You'll be contacted by all of the agencies working in that country within just a few days!  So simple!  Have fun!