Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Stroller

The best stroller for NYC?
It has taken us two months of hardcore research to answer this question with an educated guess. The answer for our family is the City Mini.
This predicament doesn't apply to the rest of the country, nor should it be expected to make sense to anyone outside of NYC that your stroller purchase is one of the toughest decisions on your list. As ridiculous as it sounds, it is downright serious.

You see, we don't have a car nor do we want one. That means no throwing the stroller in the trunk. It's with us at all times - up the subway stairs, standing on the train when there are no available seats, collapsing stroller at a moment's notice to hop on the bus & throw it on the floor before the driver pounds on the gas as you maneuver to find a seat with baby flung under your arm - just a few of the daily situations. p.s. - he's NOT going to wait for you to find the 'release' button and tuck it all in neatly. It's pack & go or risk flying down the aisle with arms & gear a flappin'. I've seen it happen!

Now for the weekend...a trip to the museum with lunch and stop by the boutique for some shopping on the way home. All of this is done with no car, no carseat for sleeping, no trunk for storing stuff. And did I mention it's February and there is 2" of snow on the ground? Yes, all of this must be transported, stored, kept warm and travel safely in a stroller. There is no heat, no winter tread, no wipers, no trunk.

The majority of strollers are pulled from the trunk, used in the shop/mall and then put back in the trunk. Our 'trunk' is my back & Kai's back while out and about.

For the past two months, we've researched what seems like every stroller on the market in order to create a short list. Well, our short list still ended up having 20 models on it. So off we went today to test drive each one of them with our excel spreadsheet in hand; noting various pros & cons based on our personal needs and preferences. It's not showing up that well, but if anyone wants it for their own research, I can forward it.

I would like to send a huge thanks to Kai's family! They know NY well and understand our concern for finding the perfect stroller. Because of their generosity, all models were a potential option for us, from the most economical to those that may appear to be pure status symbols and may have otherwise been overlooked. I can honestly say strollers in all categories were considered and the City Mini met each need except two...

1. adjustable handles: okay b/c the fixed height works if you're tall like us
2. air tires: the City Elite (one model up) has air tires but was too heavy for us

The City Mini is one of the lower priced models in the "lightweight-plus" category. The Bugaboo was a strong contender for its quality and smooth steering until after multiple failed attempts at locking the front tires in place in order to move onto the "quick fold" I had red, worn fingers, no more patience and was wondering "where is my baby while I'm doing this with both hands"? For $600-700 they need to fix the plastic lock-grips!!! Are you kidding me??? It was a deal breaker.

I'm not bashing on the Bugaboo. It did make it to the #2 spot. The final push for the City Mini was seeing six of them in use by NYC moms today. One CM-mother even jumped in when she heard us speaking to our rep. When she overheard our conversation with our rep with our criteria, she tapped me on the shoulder and began raving about her City Mini. Our rep then told us it's the number one seller in his store for NYC moms because of its weight, fold and functions. SOLD.

My apologies for the lengthy stroller post, but I must say, I was eager to read personal details when doing our research. Our info may not apply to 90% of those reading this, but for the 10% it makes sense to...I would love to hear your stroller choices and feedback.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Things are Picking Up

Three referrals! Yes, while I was typing away and snivelling about nothing happening, turns out things were moving quite rapidly behind the scenes.

Congratulations to this family, this one and also this one (the Bottomlys haven't blogged it, but mentioned on Facebook).

We've been #3 since Dec 13th and because all above mentioned referrals were for girls, we remain at #3. And with the wonderful news coming through for these families comes hope for those of us still waiting. Here's to the movement picking up Monday morning exactly where it left off on Friday! hmmmm...that's the sweet side of it, as it's seen through my ever-fabulous rose colored glasses.

The bitter side of this scenario, aka the very real side, brings me off my blissful cloud of LaLa'ness to acknowledge the difficult decisions, trials and perils facing our son's Ethiopian family right now. I hope one day we're able to know the circumstances. There are many reasons why children are available for adoption; none of them being a pleasant story. I really don't know what I hope for. I just know there are a lot of hurting parties right now a world away, including our little guy and I hope there is enough information for all involved that may somehow soothe the pain just a little bit.

It's easier, and certainly more fun, to focus on the big countdown in getting to the #1 position for a referral. However, it's reality that the closer we get - the more someone else very far away is hurting. That can never be ignored. Bitter.Sweet.

I'm feeling mushy right now and so happy to have this great blog community. I can log off this downer of a post I just wrote and jump over to someone else's blog who is in a completely different place and hopefully get a big LOL pick-me-up. Which is exactly what I'm doing...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Where are the referrals? Hello...anyone out there?

The last referral (and a big one at that) was on January 4th.

So that means, I have relentlessly been clicking through to the blogs of the two families ahead of us on the waitlist. I am fervently obsessed. It would be easier if I could just ask Gladney to shoot me an email once they contact these families with the news of their children. Or, maybe they could just patch me into the call? I suspect that may raise a "we think she's a lunatic red-flag". We don't want any special notes in our file so we'll keep these thoughts to ourselves (and our blog-friends/family). And to top it all off, the very gracious woman who maintains the unofficial waitlist is on vacation this week! Oh my. That means we are completely dependent on blog updates.

Maybe it's normal once you know you're closing in on the final days/weeks for The Call, but for some reason it's as if all the calm we've experienced since last February has now turned into a big ball of wild restlessness within a matter of days.

I'm sure the holidays were a big factor. When we started this process in 2/09, we booked the Barcelona trip for Thanksgiving - knowing that would be mid-point and break up the wait. GREAT decision. It was a big part of our focus for the month leading up to it, which lead straight into Christmas with loads of family, the New Year holiday and then MLK weekend. That's the weekend we celebrate Christmas with my father in western PA and my grandmother who now lives near him in a nursing home. She and my grandfather were the ones who always hosted the BIG Christmases each year. They're the best Christmas memories ever.

As life changes, so do family and traditions. Our tradition now is for my brother, sister, their spouses and children to all get together for a jam-packed weekend of sled-riding, eating, laughing, football, Golden Globes and lots of catch up with our dad and grandmother. She's an amazing woman and one who has had a significant influence on my life. She and my grandfather are beyond words. BIG XOXO

And now that the holidays are over? Nada. It's all waiting for The Call....tick...tick...tick...tick...tick

Kai got a great shot of us at lunch: from the back...sister (Amanda), G-ma, nephew (Braden), me

nephew (Jack) asking the ladies "Who has a watch?"

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti is in need...UPDATE as of 1/19

Please help where you can.

I'm not here to push anything, but I will give a little nudge. If you've already donated, great! If not, please consider Wyclef Jean's Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund. He is pledging 100% of all donations go to relief operations.

Many of you know I work for RED/Sony. Wyclef is one of our artists and is very hands on with his organization. He left immediately and is currently on the ground assisting in recovery efforts. To my knowledge he does not have a return ticket, as he plans to stay as long as he is needed.

The news stories surrounding this tragedy are eye opening. Hearing them first hand from a friend and co-worker is absolutely heart breaking. My friend and his wife are waiting every day for updates on the many missing family members still living in Haiti. A few have been recovered, yet too late. A little bit of happiness came in today when we learned his grandmother had been found alive. This 82 year old woman has been trapped in a tunnel underground for two days with no food or water, but she's alive and that's the point.

The economy stinks, unemployment is sky-high, cable customers are losing their HGTV, blah, blah, blah...we are alive and living in a developed country.

Hug your families and if you can, consider giving $5 to assist someone much worse off than you ever will be.

*steps down from her soapbox now*

Text “Yele” to 501501 to automatically donate $5 to the Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund
Wyclef has recently come under fire regarding the alleged mismanagement of funds within his Yele non-profit organization, with critics stating the group does not have the experience to handle the excessive amount of funding received in such a short period.
Wyclef will be speaking with Oprah tomorrow. Topics include eyewitness accounts from his recent time in Haiti and addressing the recent allegations facing Yele.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

6 Months on Wait List...

Six is a unitary perfect number, a harmonic divisor number and a highly composite number. Six is the only number that is both the sum and the product of three consecutive positive numbers. Six is also the number of strings on a standard guitar.

Did you think I completely lost it? Nope, just a quick visit to Wiki while searching for a "6" image that has a connection. LOVE Eve6. They were with RCA when I was there - awesome guys!

Six months on the waitlist tomorrow. We're off to our nephew's baptism bright and early tomorrow morning and will not be able to post, so I wanted to get a jump on it tonight.

I want to first send a big fat warm & fuzzy congratulations to Mr. Kai. Last night was four years to the day that he had his final cigarette. Not an easy task, yet he did it and stuck to it. LOVE YOU :) That day also happens to be my mother's birthday. Yes, she shares it with Elvis. Happy Bday mama :)

All in all, the past six months (12 in all when you count the first six doing paperwork) have been a great ride thus far. A few spurts of anxiety, which is my current state as we speak, but that will soon pass to bring back the state of mind of "simply waiting". That's the stage...simply waiting. It doesn't matter what you do, you're waiting. But it's not a wait compared to that of being in a really long line at a shop or waiting for your delayed flight in a storm or waiting for your neighbor to stop dj'ing while you're finishing a project or, or, or, get it. None of that matters anymore. Who cares? This is the monster of all waits and it is upon us with fury.

It's the wait that includes months & months of climbing to reach a peak with such excitement to simply be rewarded by being put at the bottom of the next peak and start again. It's quite ridiculous really. Isn't the definition of insanity when one does the same thing over and over again and expects different results?

However, it's a process I fully embrace because at the end of this is our family. The one little member who will make it complete is there . Nothing is more exciting than that!

We're in such a funny place because according to the trend, a call is in our near future. So is Niko in Gladney's care now? Is he being evaluated by doctors for his medical paperwork and by caseworkers for his birth history portion of the paperwork? Have other families who are in country picking up their children already been fortunate enough to see him, maybe even snagged a photo? See...this is where I get antsy because we're waiting on so much more than a phone call when you open your eyes and try to imagine what's happening PRIOR to your phone call. What happens prior to our call, is happening NOW.

The part that comforts me is knowing that as long as he is in Gladney's care, he is in good hands. And if he's not in their care yet, he will be fully taken care of as soon as he is, which is hopefully NOT a long wait. I can wait. Kai can wait. I don't want Niko to wait.

Lastly, I want to wish one of our very special waitlist buddies safe and exciting travels tomorrow. They are off to Addis to pick up their little girl!!!! Can you imagine? I don't know how they're sleeping tonight. She's one of the first few in our little wait-group to reach this stage. Just think, when we all go to work on Monday, this woman will be meeting her beautiful Beatrix for the first time. Yes, worth the wait.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Melkam Gena!!!! (Merry Christmas)

Today, January 7, is Christmas in Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian calendar has thirteen months; 12 months with 30 days and one month with five days (six in a leap year).

We've had many questions from family and friends regarding holiday practices in Ethiopia. I planned to do a post addressing Ethiopian Christmas, the calendar year and New Year's Day but when I checked my email today, I realized I can take the lazy road on this by simply pasting an article we received from our caseworker.

Trust me, this covers everything and is the preferred explanation. I hope to have our blog printed into a book for Niko one day (you can Google "turn my blog into a book" and it's easy peazy. This isn't for mass production, just a reference for your child(ren) and family.) Okay, before I get off there are certain things (like Ethiopian Christmas) that will be by the book without any commentary from me. I hope to pass on as many accurate details when it comes to this, so no fancy fluffy fillings from me. A simple copy & paste with the facts...

Christmas Traditions in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is one of the oldest nations in Africa. It still follows the ancient Julian calendar, so Ethiopians celebrate Christmas on January 7. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church's celebration of Christ's birth is called Ganna. It is a day when families attend church.

The day before Ganna, people fast all day. The next morning at dawn, everyone dresses in white. Most Ethiopians don a traditional shamma, a thin, white cotton wrap with brightly colored stripes across the ends. The shamma is worn somewhat like a toga. Urban Ethiopians might put on white Western garb. Then everyone goes to the early mass at four o'clock in the morning. In a celebration that takes place several days later, the priests will dress in turbans and red and white robes as they carry beautifully embroidered fringed umbrellas.

Most Ethiopians who live outside the modern capital city, Addis Ababa, live in round mud-plastered houses with cone-shaped roofs of thatched straw. In areas where stone is plentiful, the houses may be rectangular stone houses. The churches in Ethiopia echo the shape of the houses. In many parts of the country there are ancient churches carved out of solid volcanic rock. Modern churches are built in three concentric circles.

In a modern church, the choir assembles in the outer circle. Each person entering the church is given a candle. The congregation walks around the church three times in a solemn procession, holding the flickering candles. Then they gather in the second circle to stand throughout the long mass, with the men and boys separated from the women and girls. The center circle is the holiest space in the church, where the priest serves Holy Communion.

Around the time of Ganna, the men and boys play a game that is also called ganna. It is somewhat like hockey, played with a curved stick and a round wooden ball.

The foods enjoyed during the Christmas season include wat, a thick, spicy stew of meat, vegetables, and sometimes eggs as well. The wat is served from a beautifully decorated watertight basket onto a "plate" of injera, which is flat sourdough bread. Pieces of injera are used as an edible spoon to scoop up the wat.

Twelve days after Ganna, on January 19, Ethiopians begin the three-day celebration called Timkat, which commemorates the baptism of Christ. The children walk to church services in a procession. They wear the crowns and robes of the church youth groups they belong to. The grown-ups wear the shamma. The priests will now wear their red and white robes and carry embroidered fringed umbrellas.

The music of Ethiopian instruments makes the Timkat procession a very festive event. The sistrum is a percussion instrument with tinkling metal disks. A long, T-shaped prayer stick called a makamiya taps out the walking beat and also serves as a support for the priest during the long church service that follows. Church officials called dabtaras study hard to learn the musical chants, melekets, for the ceremony.

Ethiopian men play another sport called yeferas guks. They ride on horseback and throw ceremonial lances at each other.

Ganna and Timkat are not occasions for giving gifts in Ethiopia. If a child receives any gift at all, it is usually a small gift of clothing. Religious observances, feasting, and games are the focus of the season.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Heidi Got "The Call"

pa⋅tience - /pey-shuhns/:
an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay

This is huge. Imagine Breaking News interupting your fave show and then another even bigger Breaking News interupts the first one. Yup.

These folks have been on The Waitlist for 1 Year, 3 Weeks and 4 Days. That doesn't include anything prior to Waitlist such as fingerprinting, applications, homestudy, medicals and so on which can take an average of six months before even reaching the Waitlist stage.

Heidi and Mark requested siblings. There is no reference point for the wait time for siblings, as there is for example the very commonly requested infant 0-12 months - which is now at an estimated 7.5 months. It's not that anything went wrong. The wait is just completely unpredictable for siblings because of everything involved.

Everyone in the Gladney and Ethiopian adoption world knows them. Families they friended from the beginning stages continued to move forward, receive referrals, pass court, travel and bring their children home. Meanwhile, Heidi & Mark waited. and waited. and waited some more.

The flipside for all of us coming through the channels as poor Heidi sat there? We all reaped the benefits of Heidi's wait, as she welcomed each of us with a huge heart and open arms. She's offered all of us so much comfort, advice and warm words of support as we've all faced our own hurdles and have come to know her family's story.

It's now our time to give back some of that support and you can already see the love pouring in. They currently have 69 comments to their blog post announcing their referral. (an average blogger receives 0-10'ish comments)

Heidi is a force and I don't say this lightly. It takes a very special person to remain as focused, as positive and as supportive as she did during her wait.

The best part? Heidi was my first blog friend.
What more could a girl ask for? You couldn't have a more suited mentor for such a rollercoaster journey as international adoption.

The outcome of The Call? They are soon to be the proud parents of TWIN boys - 28 months old!!!!! I can't wait and am so excited to meet them!
It's a GREAT referral story and what happens when you get The Call when least expecting it.
On behalf of all your Gladney Girls, we heart YOU Heidi!

Monday, January 4, 2010

It's a Bittersweet Day

This morning began with an unexpected semi-urgent conference call at work. Seconds into the call my Blackberry, which was sitting on my desk, began ringing from various sources who would normally not call me at work. After each call, the red message light blinks. My stomach flips - as I'm fully aware of the messages on the other end, yet don't want to face it. I hung up from my conference call, went to the bathroom, shed a tear(s) and came back to check my messages. I was correct. I applaud Angie's strength. She will be missed beyond words.

A family friend lost her battle with breast cancer today. She was far too young; three years younger in fact than the majority of doctors and insurance companies begin scanning women. Her children are too young to face this, as is her husband. Our hearts break for them and their extended family and friends.

Ladies, don't wait until you're 40 for a mammogram. My little self alone personally knows of a handful of women who are/were under 40 and faced the evil creature of breast cancer. One friend currently fighting for her life went from stage one to four in a matter of months! She has a two year old daughter and is under 40. Her goal right now is to document anything possible to leave with her daughter, in fear of the toddler not remembering her later. Her strength is commendable, as was Angie's.

The (very) sweet part in this bittersweet day? This amazing woman and her husband passed court today. She is a MOM!!!!! This was their second attempt at passing court and they had all the Gladney Girls holding their breath this morning & afternoon - all awaiting the final decision. The tears began flowing when I read that her status on Facebook was simply "a mom". Huge congratulations being sent their way!
You guys are going to be the most awesome of parents. I'm so happy we've met! - xo

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2009 and such...

flowers from Nana-Banana (the perfect centerpiece)
Our holidays were an absolute whirlwind, leading to the demise of blog updates. There is so much to report that it's a bit overwhelming. A quick fix? Create a list and add pictures!

A picture is worth a thousand words, right? I've selected one highlight from our holiday (the twin nephews' NYC extravaganza) and have sprinkled a few of those images throughout the list.

Did you know you can buy a $27,000.00 Lego'd Batman? Yup.

ice skating, Jack/Theo, The Squeakquel

lighting a candle for Niko @ St Patrick's, NYE, Dylan's Candy Bar

2009 Events (in no particular order)

10. New words of 2009 according to New Oxford American Dictionary: unfriend and tweet

9. Michael Jackson dies

8. Our nephew, Theodore, is born

7. The Nook, The Kindle and The Sony Reader arrive

6. Thanksgiving in Barcelona with family

5. Tavern on the Green closes

4. America inaugurates its first African-American president

3. Sister gets married

2. Meeting the most amazing women (now lifelong friends) through the world of adoption blogs

1. We are put on the wait list for our son, Niko

Wishing all the best to our family and friends for the new year. A special thought is being sent to our new blog-world families. Sending positive vibes to you all for a peaceful and speedy wait in bringing your families together in 2010. We thank you all for the amazing support during our journey thus far and have high hopes of meeting you all in person one day!

NYE, Uncle Scott's BB game, feeding Theo

snowman on Central Ave, self portrait on train, St Pat's

A final note to all...I would like to humbly ask you to say a prayer for a stranger tonight. A close friend of our family has entered a crucial stage in cancer treatment. Thank you.