Monday, March 29, 2010

Baby N, Meet Mommy & Daddy

Our little guy is about to have his first glimpse into the sights and sounds of his mom and dad (scent too, but that's for another post)
caution: unintentional product endorsements follow

The great thing about this community (yes, here I go again - sorry) is how close-knit and supportive complete strangers are with each other in this world of international adoption. Through blogs and online forums, families reach out asking "Who is traveling soon? We just got our referral and would like to send a small package to our child." (and then the traveling family packs your care package and personally delivers it upon landing in Ethiopia)

Okay, they ask a lot of things - this being the most common 'favor' and the one we're about to ask at the end of this week once our care package is ready. The most touching public forum conversation I read was a woman posting that she just received word her child was admitted to the hospital in Ethiopia. She needed/wanted to send some medicine with a traveling family asap. Many families offered, but weren't traveling for another week or two. Then a family wrote that they were leaving in two days; no time for the mother to mail them the medicine. The solution? The traveling mother asked "What medicine is it and what care center is your child in? I can pick it up locally tonight and throw it in our bags. We'll drop it as soon as we land in Addis."

That was something I read many months ago and it impressed me like nothing has impressed me before. I decided right then that I love these people and I want to do the same for another family when we travel.

Yes, back to the Sights & Sounds. Have I mentioned how easily distracted I am lately?

The Sights...
I am loving the Sassy brand. Everything is plastered with bold bright colors & patterns to keep the attention of an infant/toddler. This little number below is a photo album that holds seven 4.25" x 6" photos and a mini shot on the front. Each page is tabbed in a contrasting bold color that encourages the child to interact and use their fine motor skills by flipping the pages. We snagged this at Buy Buy Baby for under $6 and stuffed it full of couple shots and then individual shots of us. It's safe for babies 3+ months. We put a little shot of Baby N on the cover so his caregiver knows it's his book.

The Sounds...
Yes, bedtime stories from afar. Kai will read a book using one side of the tape and I, the other. I read somewhere that this is a great method for your child to slowly become introduced to your voice, making for a smoother recognition/bonding the day he meets (and hears) us as we enter his care center in Addis. Who knows if this helps, but it certainly can't hurt and if anything, it's an entertaining way for him to fall asleep each night. We're hoping his caregiver plays along and will play this for him as he goes to bed each night. I've heard such amazing things about the caregivers and am certain anything that assists the children is something they're game for.

We had to search for this little device. The more common models have all gone digital and start at $100+ at retail. Crazy price for something we'll use once for recording. Staples has the microcassette old school models for $30 (including one cassette & the batteries).

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Call Story

It's a long one, but a lot has happened.

I still can't believe I'm writing these words, "The Call", in our blog. We've waited over a year to be able to write that and now that it's here, I feel as if I'm watching it all unfold from afar. It's been a very surreal week (yes, week - which I will also explain) that has left me delusional. I think my left brain and right brain are on complete outs with each other, leaving me in a simple "dumb and happy" state. There's no other way to describe it.

Okay, so the details we've held back (very reluctantly, I must say). We decided last February when we started our journey that we would have a specialist review all medical/developmental records when we receive our referral. We stuck to it through all these months, lining up necessary paperwork in advance, conversations with our doctor, etc - and when we got The Call, the whole thing almost went out the window. He is just perfect! How would I EVER get through this week while waiting (MORE waiting?) on the doctor's opinion (it's a 4 day turnaround). That's also when I realized how much I've counted on all of YOU!!! I told Kai that I feel I'm doing something behind your backs by not sharing this news...the news that each of us wait for on each others' blogs. I also wondered if other families have second opinions and choose not to share their experience, as I don't think I've ever read about one. Maybe it's all done quietly behind the scenes and I just have a big mouth or share too much! ha!

So my dear blog friends & family, this is also why I was a little quiet this week. I couldn't tell a proper story because my mind has been a mess since Monday (when it all went down). Also, if anyone else has their referrals reviewed by a third party, I'm warning you that once you get that info back from the doctor, it's as if you just received the referral all over again! You're certain to lose your mind.

This was our call on Monday...
(the scene: My mom & step-father were in town for our shower and heading home on Monday, so I took Monday off. They left around noon. We got The Call at 4pm'ish.)

4pm'ish: I'm yapping on the phone with my sister in GA, listening to her jaw-break story from her twins baseball game when a call waiting beep comes through.

Me: "It's okay, I'll check it later. So it's fractured?"
(beep comes through again)
Me: Hold on Mandie. I look at my phone and see "817"
Me SCREAMING to sister: "It's 817!!!! Bye." (click)
In the short moment of hanging up on my sister and clicking over to 817, I was crying, laughing and barely breathing.
Me: "Kristen? Hi. OMG." (between sobs)
Kristin: "Tamara? Are you okay?"
Me: "No. Why are you calling?"
Kristin: "This is your call."
Me: Stand up quickly from chair, room spins wildly, I fall back in my chair & can't speak.
Kristin: "Tamara, take a deep breath and sit down."
Me: "Okay."
Kristin: "Where are you and where is Kai?"
Me: "I'm at home and he'll come home now."
Kristen: "Okay, when Kai gets home, call me back on my direct number and we'll go through your referral."
Me: "I don't have your number." (I've spoken to this woman for eight months! Of course, I have her number.)
Kristin: "Do you have a pen?" (gives me her number)
hang up

Me calling Kai...
(We had a rule for the past few weeks that we don't call each other during the day; only im'ing & texts. This way when we call each other, the other must stop whatever they're doing - expecting that it's The Call.)

Me: (now sobbing & laughing again) "Kristen called."
Kai: "What? I can't understand you. Are you okay?"
Me: "Kristen called."
Kai: "Oh SHIT! I'm leaving now. Love you." (click)

40 minutes later....

Kai walks in the door saying, "The world already looks different." Isn't he the BEST?

We call Kristin back and got voicemail. Oh no! She calls back very quickly.

Kristin: "Are you in front of your computer? I have your referral for a beautiful 4 month old boy and will be sending you two emails. The first will be his pictures with an overview of his background. The second email will contain all medical records."
(she said a lot more than this, but I don't remember)
Kristin: "Okay, I've sent them so let me know when they appear in your inbox and I'll go through each part with you."
*ding* - incoming email sound; we grab each others hands & arms with our faces about two inches from the monitor.
Kai: "OMG he's gorgeous! He looks just like me!"
Me: "I start laughing and then crying all over again." (I don't think I've cried so much in my life!)

Our feet haven't touched the ground since. We're in love with this little guy and within a matter of days, he's already changed our lives.

Friday, March 26, 2010


goosebumps, squealing, crying, laughing....a gorgeous 4 month old boy with the chubbiest cheeks on the planet.
I'm at work and will connect all the dots later in a proper post.

You're next girl!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Shower!

Kai & I (in front of the fertility statue, hoping it brings speedy news)

My apologies to all for such a delay between posts.
I know I made a point of saying I would post as much as possible and ironically, I think this latest gap is the longest ever.

The shower. hmmmm...where to start?

I'll start by saying we never intended to have one and may be so bold to say we never even wanted one. We passed on a wedding shower, feeling that after being together for so long prior to getting married, we really had everything we needed. You see, I don't like making a list of items and then sending said list to our closest friends and family with a message "please buy all these things for us".

We decided to focus on the low-key side of things and would have a shower but only ask for books - used and/or new. Just books. Okay, this sounds like a plan.

yay! Heidi made it :) ( a shot in front of the fertility statue)

Our friends continued telling us there is a reason people have showers. Even my brother, who would normally opt out of a discussion such as a shower, had a very strong opinion. His comment referenced how babies change the world and alter all sanity. He mentioned how EVERYone loves babies and people will be buying us stuff whether we have a shower or not. The second point is what sunk in. I am a minimalist. His point was that even without a registry, a whole lot of stuff may begin appearing at our house.

And then someone else (a very smart woman who will remain nameless) said, 'That's fine not to have a shower, but if you two already have sippy cups in your house...well that's just weird." ha!

Okay, who are we kidding? We don't have any baby items in our house. Yes, books are wonderful and a necessity, but so are diapers and bottles and blankets and sippies and spoons and wipes and gumpaste and toothpaste and a thermometer and more diapers and on & on & on the list goes of things we do NOT have. We'll post images of some of the fabulous gifts in a later post.

It was better than I could ever imagine! Unfortunately, my dad was unable to attend, but everyone else was there and it was amazing!

The Grandparents...

Glen, Carole, Tony, Jennifer, Maria, Frank

Kai's father (Tony) said a few words (an understatement) based on "choice". It was the most endearing, poignant and heartfelt speech I've experienced. This room of approximately 60+ people - strangers to each other but all connected through our future son - were laughing, smiling, nodding and lastly, drying their eyes together. Had I known this was coming, we would have videotaped it. It was so moving on so many levels. Our friend, a yoga teacher, used the speech as inspiration for her Sunday evening class. Your choices define your character.

Kai & I thank everyone who celebrated with us last weekend and those of you who have supported us from the beginning of our journey. I will never forget the closing words...Just remember, when you go get him...know that you're picking him up for each of us in this room. Our little guy is coming home to a whole lotta love and that's really what it's all about!

Thursday, March 18, 2010


The West's got their referral!!!

Whenever I see "referral" in the title line of a post, I get goosebumps and turn giddy. These are life-changing moments happening with these families and we all get to follow along! How amazing is that?

As referrals and court dates are given, you can sense a little spark of momentum ripple through the waiting community, which is such a renewed and needed energy source.

Keeping it short today, as I'm already running late.
Huge congratulations to Shannon and family!!!!
(it's okay to feel like mush - ha!)

Monday, March 15, 2010

A High Class Problem

To my waiting buddies...You're all going to have this problem in your very near future.

Who do you stalk when there is nobody ahead of you?

I don't think this was ever addressed and I didn't realize until this morning that I have nobody to stalk. What is a girl to do???

For the past eight months I've allotted quality blog-stalking time during my morning bagel/coffee, sometimes over lunch and then if lucky, again during the 4pm sugar rush deli run. By habit, I logged onto the FBI list (the unofficial wait list) this morning only to realize...hmmmm. It was like little crickets chirping in my head.

I also realized that there may be more eyes on our blog at this point, as others have taken over my role of clicking refresh throughout the day to see if our referral has come in and therefore bumping their position up one more notch. With that in mind, I will make a wholehearted effort to post more regularly. I know it's much more exciting to see a new post when logging in, even if it's not the one that reads "The Call".

In the meantime, I will be searching for another angle to fixate on while we wait.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Numero Uno

Giddy is an understatement.

The Gittens' home has turned to absolute mush, with neither of us able to complete an intelligent sentence or thought. Considering our current state of la-la'ness, we are doomed once 'the call' comes. I'm hoping no major decisions need to be made from now until Niko comes home, because we have such tunnel vision right now it's pathetic. If it doesn't relate directly to him, it's not on our radar and doesn't really matter. I think 'mama bear' and 'papa bear' instincts are kicking in...uh oh.

I was on my laptop last night when I got home and a message popped up from Emily that read, "Coco & Kota got their referral! You're number 1!!!" The natural reaction to that is, "AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH" which brings Kai running into the living room asking "Are we #1?" How did he know that? We haven't discussed moving up the list at all. When you consider the recent lull in referrals and court dates, combined with last week's changes, we anticipated a much longer wait. It's true that nothing is predictable in international adoption.

We're sending a big congratulations to Coco & Kota on their referral!!! Check out the link above to read their referral story. Reading families' posts about how they received "the call" are my favorite. I still wonder how you can digest all the details your caseworker is telling you over the phone while simultaneously receiving images of your child for the first time.

So what else happens when you reach the #1 spot? You fall asleep a bit too excited and wake up the same, at 5am on a Saturday. (we'll see how excited I am later this evening at our dinner when I'm trying to prop open my eyelids) Anyway, I jumped online to start checking flight options and had an epiphony. When it dawned on me that we're traveling alone on the first trip, I realized our options have grown significantly.

We can take advantage of the many, many budget airlines that operate outside of the U.S. and work our itinerary around those routes, making our way to Addis. It's not for everyone but if you're willing to sacrifice a little convenience and comfort, it's a great way to see a new city/country and potentially save hundreds of dollars. (ex: in the past I got a flight from London to Krakow for $27USD and another time Madrid to Morocco for $32USD) We certainly won't be doing this on our final trip when we bring our son home, but at a quick glance I've already seen significant savings that make it worth it for our first trip for court.

I'll post more on that later for anyone who may be interested.

Okay, I'm off to start my day in LaLa land....yay!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Shame & Joy

yesterday marked eight months waiting...yay! yay! yay!

From the words of another blogger, F You CWA.
...and all you other lowlife agencies "allegedly" preying on families and children in the form of corrupt adoption. Your greedy actions have the potential for serious repercussions for thousands of innocent children.

Corruption is in every industry and comes in many forms. And if you're good at it, you'll always treat a few right who will sing your praises. It's quite unfortunate, to say the least, when you hear corruption allegations being made that involve children, and in a third world country to boot. Turn any corner and there is true need. To take advantage of this is simply shameful. (previous reference)

For family & friends not in the know, it is strongly suggested that because of the ongoing allegations mentioned above, new policies were required. Two were implemented this week.

Early in the week, the US State Department announced that visa processing for children adopted from Ethiopia will take on new requirements, which may cause a slight delay in the process. (Okay, not psyched about the delay but this was inevitable and we applaud the thorough steps being taken.)

The second notice came yesterday. Effective immediately, federal courts in Ethiopia require families to travel twice; once for court date to meet your child prior to adoption, allowing the judge to make any necessary inquiries and the second trip to pick up your child once you have passed court and their visa has been processed.

I don't care how many hoops we have to jump through to bring our baby home. We welcome a more transparent environment; one that leaves little wiggle room for corruption. My silly question is, Where are the hoops for these corrupt agencies? Isn't it safer for all, if their plug is pulled before they have the chance to pull ours?

The latest CBS interview is below.

This isn't all doom & gloom. The JOY...we are going to meet our son SO much sooner than we planned! Yes, there will be floods of tears boarding that plane home as he stays behind, but we will not focus on that part yet. We've scoured the web for families' blogs who reference traveling twice during their adoption. You see, each country has their own set of laws and each agency, their own rules. And all must abide by Ethiopia's set of laws. Suffice it to say, there is a plethora of variations to this calculation.

So, we found amazing stories from families in other countries, with other agencies and from those who simply opted on their own to travel twice. All were wonderful stories that have me so looking forward to spending time in our son's country, exploring on our own and most importantly meeting our son in the very near future. The one thing all families noted was the structural difference in the two trips with the pre-court trip being the more flexible, exploratory with much opportunity to engage in the local community. The latter is more structured with much time being in the guesthouse as you bond with (and spoil and dote on) your child/ren.

My stomach swirls with excitement as I realize, we don't need to send a care package with another family immediately because WE WILL BE DELIVERING IT OURSELVES! Awesome! We'll probably still try to send something though :)

In closing, it's very important to note the values, humanitarian efforts and core that drive the ethical agencies currently in-country. Their advancements have improved the lives of so many in need and continue to do so. It brings such calm and peace of mind knowing we are with one of the most reputable agencies. We applaud them for being everything they said they were from day one and for this week in particular - reaching out at all the right times.