Friday, August 27, 2010

Four Weeks

Four weeks from tonight, I'll be up way too late, stuffing things into my suitcase and making lists of things in order that I don't forget them in the morning. I'll be anxious and I'll be happy and I'll be just wanting to get in the car already and take off already and have our layover already and land in Addis already and go to bed already to meet our daughter the next morning already.

This is happening so fast. Time has suddenly sped up and I am all at once grateful and trying to put on the brakes. I am ready to see her but there is so much still to get done.

It's a good thing all that remains of my vaccination reaction is a rash. I mourn those two lost days, but what can I do? Just work a little harder tomorrow to catch up is all. And Sunday. And Monday. And probably every day after that. You may see me in a frenzy soon; please either ignore me or bring me an iced mocha. Your choice.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Some Notes on Travel Vaccinations

I know there are a number of you who read that are a bit earlier in the process than we currently are; this is primarily for you. I know that many agencies say, "Start your vaccinations while you're waiting!" but don't really drive that point home. I'm about to put it in all caps for you, then give a couple of recommendations based on recent experience. (As in, Tuesday through today experience.)


Now let me tell you why: I am having an adverse reaction to one of my vaccinations. I suspect it's the MMR, but it's hard to tell since I got three shots in one day. On Tuesday morning, we got the shots, on Tuesday evening, I did my normal workout, on Tuesday night I got so cold that I was hugging a heating pad set on HIGH both to get warm and to ease the pain of the injection site on my right arm. Late Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning, I got so hot that I wanted to jump in a vat of ice water. It was a classic bad reaction to a vaccine. Now, I'm not sure it wouldn't have happened if I'd spaced out the vaccines a bit more, but I'm sure it didn't help to have measles, mumps, rubella, meningococcal, and Hepatitis B all duking it out with my immune system, trying to prompt it into making antibodies for everything. Today, which is two days later, I still have a low grade fever and was absolutely exhausted after leaving the house to run just one errand. I have also developed a lovely rash, about three inches in diameter, around my injection site. I am lucky that I did not have to work today. I did go to work yesterday, and survived by the force of ibuprofen and my iron will, but just barely. I really should have called in sick, but it took me awhile to realize that the way I felt sitting on the sofa in the early morning was no indication of how I'd feel later in the day. (The same goes for today. See also: trying to run an errand.)

So here comes the recommendation. Vaccinate early, and often, and gradually. You can get the boosters for childhood vaccinations (which you may not have been paying attention to now that you're an adult, but, yes, you do need boosters even as a grown-up) at your regular physician's office. Those include tetanus, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), and polio if you got a sugar cube or a gel vaccine as opposed to an injection. Start your other vaccinations as soon as you can so you can space them out accordingly. Hepatitis A and B can be combined for two injections, after which you'll need one more of Hepatitis B only. Following this schedule, you can add just one other shot per time to get covered for yellow fever, meningitis, and typhoid. Fewer shots each time means less your body has to do and less of a chance you'll end up like me, needing a nap after running one errand.

Jarod hasn't had a hard time with his vaccinations, so it does depend on the person. You may be able to do every single vaccination at once and feel fine. Jarod did experience localized pain after both his tetanus booster and the MMR, but that's it. It's all about how your particular body responds to each vaccine. So if you'd like to throw caution to the wind, you go right ahead, and you may be all right. Then again, you might be sitting at home, alone, eating crackers because they require less energy than a sandwich. I'm just saying.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Today was what we thought would be the last visit to the international travel doctor, but then it turned out that they were out of the typhoid vaccine, so we'll have one more visit. No matter--the doctor said it was probably better to wait two weeks anyway since we got so many shots today. Three shots each, five diseases against which we are now both vaccinated. During our previous appointments, we had both caught up on some childhood disease boosters (polio for me, tetanus for Jarod), and also got vaccinated for Hepatitis A and yellow fever. Today we finished out our round of Hepatitis B shots (three total), updated our MMRs since neither of us could remember getting the booster as an adult, and for the big excitement, we got vaccinated for meningitis. YES! Surprisingly enough, the MMR booster was the worst of the bunch, but you know that there's cause for concern about how you'll feel for the rest of the day when the doctor hands you a packet of Extra Strength Tylenol and a little cup of water, then hands you another packet and says, "four to six hours from now." After that, we felt we deserved a treat (okay, fine, I felt we deserved a treat, and Jarod was easily persuaded), so we stopped into LatteLand. I've started to feel drowsy well before the caffeine from my treat should have worn off, so I think that's the vaccines doing their business in my body. Awesome.

So that's one more thing checked off of one of our lists. And for those of you who would like to keep track at home, there are just four and a half weeks until we leave. Nola's bag is mostly packed, and mine has several items in it already. I'm trying to check one or two items off our "still to buy" list every time I'm at Target. We're getting there. And then we'll be there. With her. Hallelujah.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Little Lady Nola Z,

I haven't written you a note since we first saw your face. I think it's because there is so much to say, but so little that we really know about you, except that you clearly have the best lips of anyone. Your eyebrows, too, are enviable, but we'll try to help you not let that go to your head.

With every set of photos, we see a little more of you. In the first ones, you look a little sad, a little angry, a little scared. People look at those and say, "She is so beautiful!" and they are right, but I don't love those photos so much anymore. They were the photos that led us to you, but to me they carry a great deal of sadness. We long to see you happy, and we feel like you are, sometimes. People ask all the time, "Is there a photo of her smiling?" Not yet. But we don't need one. I see from the pictures we have of you that there is a twinkle in your eye and a confidence in the way you carry yourself now. To me that says that you are adjusted to your current circumstances, and I feel good about that. There will always be more to you than a smile, and I like seeing those things now.

Two days ago we received a short video of you, and I love that best. I watch it over and over again, loving the glimpse we have into who you are. You are confused by instructions in English and inquisitive and a little wobbly on your feet. I think the shoes you are wearing are too big for your tiny feet. It's okay, though; we think it's endearing the way you bend your knees to get foot and shoe off the ground together. We also like your bald spots and the bit of lint in your hair. We like the way you put your lips together when someone asks you to blow a kiss and then give up when you do not understand. We like the way you tilt your head and raise your eyebrows. We like the way you wave with your index finger and thumb together part of the time, and the way you hold your tongue a little bit sideways when you are concentrating. We just like you.

Back when we thought we were waiting for a baby, I had an idea of what that baby might look like and what she might be like. When it turned out that baby was you, grown up a little bit, I felt like I was looking at the little girl that I had imagined all along. I felt lucky. We saw your photo on a Friday and waited all the way until Tuesday to find out for sure if we could even consider being your parents. And then it wasn't a consideration at all. We wanted you, hoped for you, longed for you. And there you were. We said yes without any hesitation. Whatever you find out about your story, I want you to understand first and foremost that you were always wanted.

Nola, you may not always (or ever) feel lucky to have landed in our family. Your road to us has been a hard one, and we respect and honor that. I want you to know that that's okay if you always feel that this isn't quite as it should have been, and that you never need to feel anything other than what you do. I hope you won't mind, though, if we always feel lucky to have you.

With much love and anticipation of meeting wonderful you,
Your mama

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Nola in Motion

Last night we received a short video of our daughter, in which she proves that she's the most adorable child on the face of the earth. During the video, the woman who is shooting it is asking her to blow kisses. Nola puts her lips together and looks confused, then gives up. At the end, she is asked to do it again, and just as the camera is being turned off, she tilts her head, and you can hear her go, "Huh?" I think she might be a lot like me. I am also told that during the photo session, she started to just wander off. This sounds remarkably similar to the way I behaved when I was on a T-ball team for one short season. Regardless, we think this video is the most fascinating video we have ever watched. Our evening pretty much disappeared once we received it.

Watching her, we suspect that she is not yet three, or if she is, she has just turned three. It's a tough call, as many children are delayed in some areas, and we may never know for sure. What we do know is that birth records are often drawn up on the spot when a child is relinquished, and birthdays simply aren't important to Ethiopians the way they are to Americans. Our daughter's birthdate is listed as the day before her relinquishment. Our guess is that when she was brought to the orphanage, the person relinquishing her gave an estimate for her age. It happens a lot. We are not surprised. Whether or not we try to go through the hassle of changing the date on her birth certificate, however, remains to be seen. We'll have time and doctors' evaluations to decide that. I suppose the one sense in which it matters is when she starts school.

For now, we will just keep watching and watching and watching the video.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Making Three Lists, Checking Them Twice

I've got an old page-a-day sudoku calendar floating around in my work bag, and I've taken to finishing a puzzle and using the back for lists. Wednesday at work, I finished three puzzles, and thus had paper for my three adoption travel lists. I have a packing list for me, a packing list for Nola, and a list of things that must be done before I leave. I am letting Jarod make his own packing list, which he probably won't do, since he's all fly-by-night devil-may-care spontaneous and will just open his suitcase and put things inside. He will probably not forget anything, or the number of things he forgets will be the same as mine, even with my list. But lists make me feel better, and I especially feel I need one since I will be in Ethiopia for so long and will not return to pack more things for Nola. Her list actually includes a sub list entitled, "Jarod Brings 2nd Trip."

The lists are also handy for keeping track of things we need to purchase--full size bottles of shampoo, for instance, and extra dental floss. You may or may not be aware that I have a flossing compulsion and cannot fall asleep if I haven't practiced proper dental hygiene, so this is clearly very important. Because purchasing everything at once would add up quite a bit, I am softening the blow by purchasing one or two things each week. This also helps me feel like I am marking time in a significant way. Each week, I am more ready than the week before. I have to do what I can so I don't go crazy obsessing about it. When I feel like I'm making progress, I am not worried. When there's nothing to do, I start reading horror stories about head lice and getting worried that my tea tree oil shampoo and conditioner will not repel the little pests. So I'm keeping it sane and checking items off my list. I am putting things in a stack for me, and directly into our daughter's bag. It still blows my mind that we have a daughter and she has luggage because she is coming to our house to live.

I mean, wow, right?


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Few Fundraising Notes

Talking about adoption fundraising is always a little sticky. I'm a little bit wary of it because I don't want us to constantly be asking others for stuff--it seems a little impolite--but also because it's just awkward in general. I've seen some snarky comments on message boards when people ask about adoption fundraising ideas, and the tone is one of condescension, as if those who do fundraising are financially irresponsible people who expect others to pay for everything for them. Most of the people I know who have used fundraising tools to help with adoption expenses have not been those sorts of people. We have savings. We've given things up. We have a plan for how to make it work if the fundraising doesn't work out at all. And finally, we are willing to work for what we are given, to offer something in exchange for the funds. This is why we have a Storenvy store and why our next and final fundraiser is set up the way it is. If it is important to you, we want to offer you something in exchange for helping us out.

Adoption financing is an odd thing. There are tax credits to be had and employer assistance, but those things are available after the adoption is final, whereas the fees are all due up front. We received a number on a sheet of paper that estimated the cost, but there are always new things cropping up. For the most part, we do our best to work those small unexpected expenses into our family budget. But to be honest, now that we're paying off two loans (which will be paid off by those aforementioned tax credits and employer assistance, but must be paid by us in the meantime), it's a bit harder to do that. Add in travel expenses, and the budget gets pretty squeaky. So we're doing a few small things that we hope will help with that.

1. We are reminding you that we have an online shop with official Finding Magnolia shirts and tote bags in it, as well as various other handmade goods.

2. We are reminding you that donations via Gotcha Gift Registry are still welcome.

3. We are asking you local Kansas City folks to save the date for an Ethiopian dinner and silent auction on the evening of Friday, September 17. We will be sending out invitations by mail, so please e-mail me at marymuses at gmail dot com and provide your address if you would like to come. We will also be collecting orphanage donations that evening, and a list of needed items will be provided in the invitation.*

4. We are asking you to keep an eye on our fundraising thermometer there to the right; our goal is to raise enough to cover the expenses of Jarod's second plane ticket and my stay in Ethiopia, plus a few other unexpected expenses related to adopting a three-year-old as opposed to a baby. (Surprise! She's three! Also surprise! You need to buy a separate plane ticket for her!)

To those of you who have given so freely to us already, we are grateful for your support. You are forever a part of Magnolia's story, and of ours. Thank you.

*If you would like to contribute orphanage donation items and cannot attend the dinner, please e-mail me, and I will provide a list and will pick up if you are local. You can also donate funds via Gotcha Gift Registry, and we will use the amount to purchase whatever supplies are most needed.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Seven Weeks, Not Quite

We leave September 25. I don't think I've mentioned the exact date of our departure yet. But there it is. Seven weeks from yesterday. Which might sound like a long time, but I know from the way time has flown since we first saw her photo that it really isn't, especially when there's plenty to do and an extended stay in Ethiopia to plan for. We are excited to meet our girl. We are ready to be her parents. At the same time, I am relishing the Sunday afternoon naps and the luxury of cleaning out the garage and basement without having to make sure a little someone isn't up to any mischief. I treasure these days when the house is quiet, not because we wouldn't want her here if she could be, but because this represents the closing of a chapter of our lives that has been very good. If I were to be overly anxious about meeting our daughter, I would completely miss out on enjoying the things that are good about life now that will likely change. So I'm being patient with time as it passes, and using it not only for getting things done, but also for recognizing and enjoying those things which will come to an end. Life has been good and will be good. We are grateful.
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