Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Year Home

It's a bit strange to sit down and have the time to write again. This day is monumental in our lives and one that has brought me back to making the time to say something again. A place I used to run to each morning, checking others' updates and posting my own rants & raves that has somehow dwindled over this past year. Yuk for me not making the time.

August 11th, 2010. The day our little man's toes hit U.S. soil. To be a bit mushy for a minute...last year at this hour (as I write, not post, b/c that may take until tomorrow morning in case I blab too long and end up going to bed and then quickly finish in the a.m. rush of things) we were waking in our guest house to head to the doctor for Niko's final round of shots to keep him breathing safely on the flight home with (then) plans to have a doctor meet us at JFK for another shot in case he became more ill in-flight. Thankfully the shots worked and we were able to rest upon arrival, seeing the doctor the following day and not as our welcome home at the airport.

Fast forward to tonight, 8/10/2011...I walked in to the most amazing little boy opening the door for me and loudly announcing to daddy that it's 'mama', 'mama', 'mama' followed by jumping and then peeking inside my purse for the banana I bring home each night, which he then grabs and runs to the kitchen where we sit on a large throw and a have a 'picnic' together.

This past year has been quite an adventure. Of course after not updating as much as I did in the past, it's the most recent events that are the easiest to put into words. I know I read so many blogs for friendship, comfort, advice and simply to check out how the many diverse personalities out there cope (yes, cope) with the 'adventures' children throw our way.

I feel our biggest hurdle has been coping with lack of sleep. You're not the same person when you don't sleep. Things just don't make sense. YOU don't make sense.
We've had a great strategy going from day one, which is called My Night, Your Night. It's self-explanatory and only has one rule...we do it until neither of us have to deal with nighttime drama for 14 consecutive nights. Eleven nights is our record. We've been home a year. Yup.

It's because just as you conquer one issue, there's ALWAYS another lurking. Once you deal with the initial two-month hunker down bonding period of sleeping closeby, then it's because they wake up in the night and are afraid. A few nights go by peppered with the rare awakening and you congratulate each other on your great progress only to find out the first tooth is peeking through. HA! That first tooth means no sleep for the next eight months as you await the next 19.

The reason I'm focusing on lack of sleep is because it's what recently brought me to my knees. After months of this, I was up for a new reason...the first ill stomach. This was just so sad, as Niko and I were sleeping on his floor with no cushions or blankets because it was so spur of the moment that he yelled a very unusual cry, I was just holding him and then it all happened everywhere. 2am and I'm giving him a bath with him moaning 'mama' 'mama' with his eyes half closed. I was teary, completely fried and in mama-bear mode at the same time. Three hours later I was still up with only two hours remaining before needing to shower and leave for work.

The dirt...skip ahead a few nights with not much more sleep. Mama's close to losing it! Thankfully I have the best husband in the world, because as I'm showering for work with the room spinning from my delirious state, I decide I'm going straight from work today to a hotel because if I don't get a straight 8 hours sleep, I'm going to be no good to anybody, including myself.

I tell him I'll be home by 6:45am the next morning to do the a.m. Niko routine and it won't be a blip on his radar at all. He tells me to enjoy it and that he may do the same in the near future which I completely encourage. I checked into the hotel around 7:30pm, ate dinner, drank 1.5 glasses of wine, caught about eight minutes of Shark Week and was comatose by 8:35pm. It was the best night's sleep I've had in so long. I woke up so refreshed (yes, still tired) but not exhausted. WHAT a difference that makes. I could function and was on top of the world.

A recent melting 'o the heart moment occured as Niko was in our bedroom flipping through one of my fashion mags as I stared in the mirror wondering what to wear to disguise my banged-up, tired looking self. He then comes bounding toward me with much excitement pointing to a Versace model saying "mama"! I melted. My baby thinks I'm pretty, not old & haggered! This couldn't have happened on a better morning for the self-esteem. (On the flip-side of this, our nephew continues to think the shot of David Johansen in our hallway is ME. So, good day = Versace model. Tired day = 61 year old, MALE rocker.)

There will be a warm & fuzzy feeling as I go about my day today, looking back on last year as we landed at JFK with a little boy who had no idea what's in store. His Uncle Scott and Cousin Jack met us at the airport with big hugs & smiles as Niko simply stared them down, assessing the situation. A year later and they're inseparable.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Kechene OTO Charm Necklace is HERE!

Nine months in the making...

The necklaces are complete, on US soil and ready for sale.
To preorder ($35), email: with Kechene in the subject line.
Note: Please feel free to repost this to your blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

This necklace was designed to assist young girls aging out of the orphanage system. (remember this post?) Supplies were shipped to the girls, who then created each necklace by hand. I had the opportunity to meet them while in Addis. What an AMAZING group of young women!

and now for the sales pitch...

Number one and most importantly...all proceeds benefit these girls and the Gladney On Their Own project (providing life skills to older girls aging out of the system) throughout Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America.

Number two...they're not mass produced, which gives such a special background to the project. The girls who benefit from the sale of each necklace are the same girls who assembled them (with much excitement and professionalism I might add!).

Lastly...they are very versatile depending on the recipient. I added an "E" to mine, signifying Ethiopia and wore often during our wait. I'll now be adding Niko's birthstone and probably an "N". (note the hidden messaging there with the birthstone reference, making for a great holiday gift for grandmothers, sisters, friends and mothers everywhere)

Our original plan was to create a design that reaches beyond the adoption community, making it possible to maximize the fundraising for these young women. A charm necklace seemed to work best and reach a wide audience.

Kai & I visiting the Kechene girls - xo

I was a bit nervous as Kai & I walked into the Kechene shop in Addis. None of us spoke the same language and I wanted so much to introduce myself and chat with these amazing women. They stared back at me as I oddly mimed various design motions (not easy). I then pointed to my necklace. There was a sudden burst of squeals, smiles and they were rushing forward with loads of hugs. We all began speaking at the same time as if we all now understood each other. It was very humbling and such an honor to spend time with the girls.

The On Their Own mission statement

To provide meaningful financial assistance and educational programs
to older, unadopted orphaned children served by Gladney Center for Adoption
in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America
to prepare them for a safe, self-sufficient life on their own.

from Gladney:

On Their Own provides support for the Kechene Women's Association, an organization of young women who have "aged out," of the Kechene Children's Home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

There are few opportunities for these orphaned young women once they have been released from government care. Most seek low-level service industry work in Ethiopia and Middle Eastern countries, but pay is extremely low and such work is dangerous in countries with few women’s rights and no citizenship protection. Unfortunately, many fall back on prostitution to provide for themselves.

The young women of Kechene need life-skills to navigate the world, earn a living and use money wisely. They need to learn how to set goals based on safe choices, self-sufficiency, and self-esteem. They need a future that offers a chance for a long, productive, and happy life.

Your purchase of this beautiful necklace supports life-skills programs for the Kechene Women's Association. Every dollar dedicated to On Their Own is stewarded by the Gladney Center for Adoption, a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit organization, to ensure the funds are invested in empowerment projects for orphaned children.

To learn more about the Kechene Women's Association and Gladney's programs for orphans around the world, please visit Gladney's website

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Our Three Month Anniversary


Three months ago today, early afternoon, Niko landed on U.S. soil at JFK with a fabulous greeting from his Uncle Scott (my brother) and his Cousin Jack (our nephew). I'm sure there are many profound things I could be saying right now about this special moment, but because we're spending 100% of our energy during all Niko-waking-moments, I'm a bit fried and at a loss for words. It's a good thing I have a gazillion photos to document these three months!

I will refrain from posting said gazillion shots and limit the assortment to the month's highlights, including HAPPY 1ST BIRTHDAY, MR. NIKO! Yes, he turned one year old this month. I'm seeing this is going to be a very busy month for us for many years to come, as the big day falls very close to Halloween.

How is it that a one year old has three birthday parties, all filled with friends and loved ones? Okay, I get the loved ones part, but how does a one year old already have friends? Impressive, I must say. I will also say I was really into the 'mommy is making cupcakes thing' and then getting a big smile from his little friend, Lilly, who greeted me at the babysitter's door with "Niko's mom...I know you made us Elmo cupcakes and I'm really excited! I love Elmo and I love Niko!"

We have THE best babysitter in the world. This is something for another post, but going back to work was a difficult time with Niko. It was much harder on us than on him. Toward the end of my maternity leave I began taking him over to play and we would both stay about 20 minutes and play with the two other children and leave together. They were so accepting of our attachment & bonding 'rules' that we were very strict to adhere to and after a few trips together, I left him for an hour as a test run (with me two buildings away at home). All went so well and has only gotten better. He now looks forward to playing there and being with his two new friends. We have our morning breakfast dates and playtime and then we walk down the sidewalk (him by himself now holding my hand). The two other mothers clued me in immediately that this will be far harder on me than it will be on him! They were SO right.

Enjoying cupcake #1 all to himself.

So, after the birthday parties, we went straight into Halloween which explains the cow costume.

Next up, the big family Thanksgiving! We followed all the rules (bending some to fit our situation), particularly the two months without large crowds or incoming traffic to the home. It worked and we're so glad we stuck to it. We're still the only ones to feed, bathe and put him to bed and will continue this for many more months. Niko has met all members who will be at Thanksgiving, but NEVER more than a few at a time. His little head is going to be spinning with all the attention and we're prepared for securing some alone time with him. I'm sure it will be needed and I'm so grateful to our family for understanding how we've handled the past three months. I know some things may seem strange at times, but in the end it's all about him, not us.
And I can say with much certainty that these 'rules' are a huge factor in how well he has adjusted to this point. That smile of his is not all due to Kai & I knowing what we're doing! It's from following his lead, taking things seriously and sometimes taking nothing seriously. I've heard it takes six months to really get in your groove. I'm just happy to report, I feel us all now wanting a groove to get into and we're making great progress. There are still ech days, but I must say they're different from that first month of ech days.

Three Months! It feels like Niko has been here forever. It really does and in the most wonderful way.
Our first winter hat & coat...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Steps, Aide and Special Mothers

It appears that part of my new normal is blogging once a month with as much crammed into a post as possible. Apologies for the info-overload, but as life continues to settle in so will my ability to ration the blogging. We can hope anyway!

STEPS: So, the big news first...our little man is walking!!! He has been pulling himself up for quite some time which led to taking a few steps here and there. And then...drumroll...on October 9th, 2010, as he was sitting on the kitchen floor banging two chopsticks together, boom. He got up, continued banging the chopsticks and took off without stopping until he made a full loop to end up back where he started. He then hurled himself forward in exhaustion and remained flat on the floor. (chopsticks were removed from hands by this point)

Nikolicious is also sleeping through the night! Last night was the fourth night in a row and I really hope I'm not jinxing it now that I've put it in writing. His crib is now his friend, which is just amazing to see. He loves playing and dancing in his room at the beginning and end of each day. Watching him now from only two short months ago is like watching a different child. He's growing each day, both physically and mentally. It's so comforting and rewarding to see his confidence, joy, content and overall excitement each day. He is truly his own little man.
Leading up to the big day, a little girl in the park asks if she can help him walk. So cute!
One of the final days in shorts. I can't believe he's outgrowing clothes already!

AIDE: If you are traveling soon and able to carry aide, please email me at tamara at newyorkdesigner dot com. If you know of anyone traveling, please pass this info along.

One of the government orphanages that Gladney families tour is Kebebe Tsehay. This place will leave you speechless. Before entering the baby house we were given a short overview. It is labeled 'the worst government orphanage in Ethiopia'. A heavy title to bear in a country already known for such poverty. We were also told that two weeks prior to our visit, they lost seven babies in one night. There are babies living with a series of illnesses that are otherwise preventable in the United States, due purely to a lack of resources.

On our tour, there were 14 adoptive parents in our group. Each parent had a baby in their arms while holding a bottle for another lying nearby in their crib. There were still babies not being tended to. On a daily basis these babies have TWO caregivers. That was until this amazing woman stepped in and was able to assist in providing 24 caregivers. Her blog describes the orphanage in great detail and I suggest reading it.

Asking what else could make an impact, I was told hand sanitizer. There was NONE. The caregivers are doing the best they can with what they have, but are treating one baby and then moving on to the next and very likely spreading disease in the process. I have secured multiple refills of hand sanitizer with their corresponding wall mounts. If you're able to drop them at Kebebe on your upcoming visit, I will ensure I wrap it in a way to avoid any leaks. One item is the size of a standard wall dispenser. Hopefully this can work out and I will continue working on this end to keep the supply coming. Each refill bag = 2,000 squirts.

SPECIAL MOTHER: Our little boy's personality continues to amaze us. As he reaches a new development stage, looks to us with such security, trudges along with such determination if he toddles over, discovers a new sound and experiences everything with such joy we continue to think of his Special Mother. I think we always will. She played the biggest role in his life prior to our care and we are forever grateful for the genuine love and guidance she provided. We know his transition to our care would not have been as productive had she not supplied him with the proper tools.

She asked for updates and photos as he grows, which we are so happy to do and recently sent our first to her with a traveling family. It was a little hard to write and show pictures of him walking, knowing she may be a little sad reading this from afar. However, I truly believe all the Special Mothers do want updates and the comfort of knowing all their little guys & girls are doing well. What a great role you all have played in the lives of our children. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

from Arghhhh!!! to Ahhhhhhhhhhh...

I didn't miss a beat during our wait for Niko; blogging each and any anniversary imaginable. The reminders on my Outlook calendar were ridiculous in number. Oh, how things have changed, gone pear-shaped, headed south...however you put it, I've become a hot mess of exhaustion since returning home seven weeks and one day ago. Wow, has it really been that long?

How sad is it that my first red flag was that of a new reminder on my calendar that I go back to work soon. WHAT? But I just got home!!! Nope. Voice in head says: Lady, you've been home seven weeks and one day and not one mention of one detail on that blog (that at one time) tied you to all the others. Nooooo! I've become the person who comes home and stops blogging. Say it ain't so.

A few anniversaries and milestones I've neglected to mention include: The Flight Home, Home One Week, Has it Really Been a Month?, The First Dr. Appt, The First (non-adoption related) Dr. Appt, Did He Just Say Ma-Ma??? and so on. You get it. So, before this post turns into a list of everything I haven't blogged about, I will simply say...This seemingly non-eventful time frame has actually been pretty jam-packed, both emotionally and physically for all three of us.

Week One - Four: the "Arrrggghhhh!!!"
Oh boy. All that prepping, reading, researching and Googling during The Wait did not fully arm me to face a nine month old in full transition mode. They tell you "sleep now, because you won't get any later". Well, what I didn't take into account is that it may not be unreasonable to be home six weeks and the first minute to myself I catch a glimpse in the mirror and ask aloud, 'how did I go downhill so fast?'. And then I wonder, (also aloud because when your audience is a nine month old day in and day out, you really begin to just let all the crazies hang out) 'did I ever conquer that jet lag?' When said nine month old wakes up every hour every night, it's quite likely the answer is a resounding no.

I should also point out that when you're in the waiting period reviewing the training videos and reading the books, you're likely doing so during a time slot you planned. Maybe it's a rainy afternoon, nothing much to do so you pick up a book. Or maybe you and your husband mark your calendars for say, next Tuesday when things calm down at work. You'll make a nice dinner, grab your journal with pen and soak up every detail of the videos during this very focused time you allotted for yourself.

Well, when the real-life 'baby with a serious moment of separation anxiety' actually occurs it's unlikely to happen when you're rested, focused, have a full stomach and your partner will most likely be at work, not sitting beside you to offer their $.02. Oh, and that journal? It will not be in arm's reach.

I don't say this to sound unappreciative, cynical or to minimize the amazing family I am so fortunate to have. I say this because I was somehow blindsided by the reality of the scenarios I read and video clips I viewed once they entered my own household.

Day two home alone once Kai returned to work, I looked at my clock and my stomach sunk when I saw it was 10:30am. WHAT? It felt like it should be at least 3:45pm. During nap time I tiptoed past Niko's bedroom to use the bathroom in our bedroom. As I turned to flush the toilet, I realized this was no longer a luxury I had. There would be no flushing toilets during naps. That's when it all poured out. I found myself, a grown woman, sobbing in the bathroom because I could no longer flush my toilet when I chose to do so. What is happening?

My body was physically sore due to Niko scratching at my legs to be held, scratching my chest once I held him and afraid to be put down. My hair, even though always in the now obligatory ponytail, was still being pulled. My face and arms were scratched because he couldn't get close enough. He would scream bloody murder if I left the couch to put away a dish. On top of this, he weighed over 23 pounds at the time and I had lost seven while traveling. I was run down and being taken over by a nine month old, both physically and mentally. Emotionally I was drained and beyond in love with this little guy.

It was after the bathroom no-flushing-sob that I pulled myself together and searched for our social worker's phone number. She did our homestudy and worked in the NY office. I told her briefly what was up and asked for help, focusing on his separation issues with me and the fact I will be returning to work at some point. At the time I felt we were moving backwards, rather than moving forward.

This was the wisest thing I did in my cloudy state. Within 24 hours, Kai and I were having a conference call with a therapist who listened and offered such wonderful advice specific to our situation. A big YAY that we actually were doing things correctly and our scenario was not an unusual one. We both exhaled after that call and took things a little more in stride moving forward. We began to look for the light at the end of the tunnel.

Week Four - Seven: the "ahhhhhh...."
Wow. Wow. Wow.
We are friends, family, buddies and everything in between. It's pure joy in the morning when I hear him beginning to wake up and I wonder what's in store for the day (in the good way). There are days when I walk by his room, hoping slightly that he'll hear me and wake up early because I can't wait to play with him. His edge is gone and so is mine. He trusts us and the first time we saw that in action, I completely melted. The fact he knows he's safe has changed everything.

So now that I've gotten back on the blog, I can't stop yapping. I better wrap it up.
In closing, I would like to say there have been many tend-to-Niko breaks since I started writing this morning. During the last break, HE TOOK THREE STEPS!!!

p.s. Good luck to all the families waiting for court dates and decisions. Now that rainy season is over and the courts have reopened, I've been thinking of you all. Sending lots of love your way!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Nikolicious

Don't you all just want to spend your day showing baby pictures to the whole world, but without being THAT parent? That's one more reason why I love this community. We love looking at baby pictures! And as I sit here feeling tired, exhilarated, accomplished and completely spent, I can upload a slew of shots from Niko's first days home and call it a (semi-legit) blog post.

the morning starts in the roundabout

and there's always dancing, clapping & snapping (attempts at)

short trip to the park; a bit skeptical of the swing

and then daddy jumped in

mommy still can't find the right shoe size, hence the socks



Monday, August 16, 2010

Niko is Home...ahhhh

his favorite toys are a wooden spoon & used envelope

no words needed

So, I did it again and let a whole load of time slip by since my last post. That's not good for anyone because it means I either have to:

a) come up with a very clever means of engaging your attention while explaining two trips to Ethiopia that covered ten days each (both packed full of lifechanging sights, sounds & emotions) or...
b) go the self-indulgent route and start typing away each detail, covering every moment of each trip in its entirety and risk boring you to death

I choose to opt out of both and simply jump into the present; with the intent of leaving little sprinkles of our two trips via captions and pictures in future posts.

Before jumping into the present though, I must mention two family matters that touched us greatly as we departed on Sunday, 8/1; fully aware of one while not knowing the other until our return. Late Saturday afternoon (7/31) our 16 month old nephew was airlifted to a local hospital for emergency care. His family was visiting my ill grandfather in PA.

Kai and I shifted gears asap from packing-for-Ethiopia-mode to get-to-the-hospital mode. Because the medics didn't allow parents in the helicopter, it was important the little guy had a familiar face with him at the hospital until his parents had time to drive the distance (he was being flown to our area). We stayed the evening in a local hotel, making it home the next afternoon with time to finish packing and head to the airport.

He remained hospitalized for quite some time and has since been diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. He is a trooper and doing very well.

The following day while we were in flight to Addis, my grandfather passed away. He was a man who easily fit into the cast of Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation. He lived into his nineties, was one of the smartest men I've known, adored his wife and four daughters and was very proud to be adding a great-grandson to his brood. We talked often about Niko's arrival, as he was very curious about the process of international adoption. He also loved quizzing people on history and facts, (taking every opportunity to use this as a great platform for doing so!) Poppy, we love you and will miss you greatly!

So, while the family rallied around each other here for the young, the elderly and the new arrivals, Kai and I were a world away gathering our little guy, soaking him in and letting him cry his little eyes out until he knew it was okay to relax. And once he did, we all began to relax a bit and things slowly started happening. Family started happening and it continues each day. There are ups, downs and in-betweens with the only constant being the utter cuteness of Niko and the size of those cheeks!

I'll be updating more as we go and will definitely include a few powerful moments along the way. Ethiopia has a lot going on. I saw things on the first trip that will forever be ingrained in my memory. The second trip only reinforced the notion that, yes I can do something and I will. Realistically, many issues are an ongoing battle and of a large magnitude. However, there are plenty of 'situations' at hand that if simply nudged a little, can change the outcome of someone else's life. Seriously.

It was a very bittersweet return, to say the least.
p.s. future posts will be light & fluffy and continue to include silly, giggly, cooing baby shots

getting accustomed to the seat that allows mommy to shower and eat

the end of a long day