Sunday, September 28, 2008

Weekend Moments

Saturday we had a little family outing to the mall (yep, you can't get more suburban then that but it was also about 95 degrees here yesterday so don't judge!)  I was actually excited to load up the kids and take them because about 10 months ago I'd met a really nice woman who works at the Macy's and who also happens to be Ethiopian!  Over the course of the last 10 months whenever I was in the mall I'd find Mimi and keep her updated on what was going on with the adoption. Saturday was my chance to finally introduce our beautiful daughter to her!  Mimi was very excited to meet the lovely Ms.Tessa and immediately began speaking to her in Amharic and reaching out to hold her.  Tessa got a big smile on her face and her tiny eyebrows started going up and down.  This always cracks me up when I see her doing this and is apparently a cultural thing.  The Gladney in-country people told me it's like saying 'OK'.  Mimi held her speaking all the little endearments I'd heard Tessa's caretakers saying to her in Ethiopia. But you know what - and this is big -  after a moment Tessa reached back for me!!  First a little then with a loud protest cry!  Tessa absolutely wanted to be back in my arms!!  When I was holding her once more, Mimi tried speaking to her in Amharic again asking Tessa if she wanted her to hold her.  Tessa shook her head no and wrapped her arms firmly around my neck even though she was clearly enjoying hearing Amharic again.  I guess Tessa has officially decided I can be her mother and I can't begin to put into words the sheer happiness - and to be honest the relief - I feel.

Tonight we had another great moment. Neilan was going to bed and little Tessa (or as I'm thinking of renaming her  'I'm never going to sleep - not now, not ever') and I were tucking him in. We were laying together in Neilan's bed cuddling with Tessa in the middle.  She was trying very hard to hug us at the same time with those little arms of hers.  Neilan was laughing at Tessa and she was giggling at him and I tell you all was completely and sublimely right with the universe in those wonderful moments.  And then... Tessa threw up.  
I guess tummies full of formula and attacks of the giggles with your big brother don't mix. 

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Some Big News At Our House

Just guess which cute little girly girl stood on her own for the very first time tonight AND took her very first steps? And guess which adorable big brother has decided maybe having a little sister can actually be a lot of fun and maybe he even really likes her?  
Need a couple hints........

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Part I

OK first my little disclaimers before really going into our thoughts and experiences about our journey to Tessa.  

I think everyone's experience in Ethiopia is inherently unique and special.  Circumstances, while on the surfacing appearing the same, are really quite different family to family. Additionally, we were in the first group affected by the new rules about not having your child out in public with you. That alone made our trip very different from what other families in the past have experienced.  

I don't think you can truly know a place or a people after 10 days.  You can scratch the surface but to get deeper you need to be able to spend the time - really live the place.  We have a snap shot of Ethiopia in our minds but with only 10 days in Addis that's all it is - a snap shot.  We would like it to be more and for Tessa to have more so we will be going back in the future and hopefully we will be able to build a much deeper and truer picture.

Finally, all children are so unique and react differently to what's happening to them.  Tessa was by far and away the most 'upset' of the children in our group of families.  She cried and fussed and was miserable.  She was sick and scared and missed her caregivers.  The transition was made harder for her because of the new rules.  It was not a fun 10 days for her and frankly by day 9 I was pretty miserable and scared myself.  However, many of the other kiddos seemed to glide through it. Again, each families' experiences are very unique.

So after all that, here goes.... Part I... From the beginning!  (And feel free to skip any of the boring parts!)

Luggage from hell?  Not so bad!!   When we checked into United at LAX for the fist leg of our trip we made sure our bags were tagged all the way through to Addis. Once they were checked in and gone we never had to deal with them again  and all 7 pieces made it to Addis in one piece!  Amazing!

Which leads to - Fly Emirates Air.  Yes we had the overnight in Dubai but for us that turned out to be a plus (we weren't nearly so jet lagged when we got to Addis). The service was very good. Emirates very obviously hires young, good looking, enthusiastic people from around the world. Seriously, this must have been what airlines in the US were like in the 60's.  Coach is coach but they have a great entertainment system at every seat with movies, TV shows and video games. It made a long flight bearable through the power of distraction.  They also had a flight information channel which showed exactly were the airplane was.  We could clearly see where we were and how much further the flight had to go.  Weird as this sounds it helped in dealing with the length of the flight since we had a real sense of things moving along.  The food was more then just edible it was actually good - very unairline like!  Emirates also paid for the hotel room in Dubai since it's a 'forced layover'.  No problems getting through the airport in Dubai and the van for the hotel was waiting outside.  I can't say the hotel room was all that great but hey, we were tired, jet lagged and happy to lay down.  We got a solid 8 hours of sleep and a hot shower.  Breakfast was also provided (as was a dinner we were just to tired to eat). The shuttle took us back to the airport and since we didn't have any luggage except the carry-ons it was easy to check in for our next flight.  A relatively short plane ride later and we were in Addis!  
                                                                                                             (Arriving in Dubai from NY)

The Addis airport can be a little confusing in finding the visa office but as other bloggers had advised we just kept turning and following. There was NO line and we got our first sample of how things are done in Ethiopia. The visas and receipts are all processed by hand. Literally the ladies were using carbon paper between the copies so it took a little time for them to get it done. We were also glad we’d taken Gladney’s advice about no money being older then 2002. The gentleman in front of us had two bills from 2001 neither of which were accept much to his great frustration.  I changed $100 at the airport money exchange as Joe collected our bags. Which leads to - use the baggage handlers at the luggage carousels!! These gentlemen loaded our bags onto the carts and then hustled us to the front of the customs/baggage check line. They exchanged a few quick words with the people running the customs/ baggage check and we were through! I think it took less then 2 minutes and no one looked at or asked us about anything!! And we’re talking 7 big heavy bags here. I can’t even remember how much they asked for but it couldn't have been more then 5 dollars.

Travis and Ryan were waiting outside customs and here is where the new rules were really starting to make things tricky. We needed to go to the Hilton to check in and they were able to go with us to the hotel to help with our luggage but normally Travis would have brought Tessa to us there or he would have brought her to us in the living room of the Gladney baby house. With the new rules newly in place, we couldn't have her with us at the hotel and Travis and Ryan were being run ragged trying to take care of all the families at different guest houses and hotels as well as figure out childcare so people could get out. That left us to check in, dump our bags in our room, get our driver and go to the Gladney foster care home on our own. We literally walked in by ourselves, found our way up the stairs,  said her Ethiopian name a few times and were pointed to her crib by the caregivers.

And here is the very, very best part because...... there she was!!! There was Tessa Kidist looking out at us with her big soulful eyes!! We finally, really, truly had our daughter in our arms!! It felt like a dream we’d both had for so long had suddenly magically materialized right before our eyes! And it still has that half real, half dreamlike quality even remembering it now! Still Magic!

                                      (Seeing our beautiful daughter for the first time!)

And here is the not so great part. It was not the best thing for Tessa to have us meet her with all her caregivers there and for her not to come with us right away.  She let us hold her and love her for a few precious minutes but then she wanted her caregivers back. They were right there and she kept lifting her little arms to them and they kept taking her out of ours – even when we didn’t want them to.  I can’t completely blame the caregivers - in the past they wouldn't have been there for the transition but the whole situation with the new rules made it hard.  And, they're very sweet women who love the children. But every time they would take her from me it made Tessa not want to come to us even more which resulted in a traumatized baby who cried simply looking at us which, of course, made the caregivers reach for her more. 

                                         (Tessa with one of her favorite caregivers)

The situation set a pattern for her that was almost impossible to overcome the entire time we were there – even after we moved to the guest house because we still needed a caregiver in order to go out at all since we couldn't have Tessa with us in public. We had thought a few days of transition at the Gladney house followed by a move to the guest house with us would be easier for Tessa.  Boy were we wrong.

Coming soon ( I hope) ..... Part II

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Update

6 long days and one pacemaker later my mother is back home with us!!  We are hoping this is the fix because honestly I couldn't take her passing out one more time.  There's nothing like watching your 76 year old mother fall to the floor unconscious to get your own heart racing! Right now she looks a little worse for the wear but we are very thankful it wasn't more serious then it was. A very sincere thank you to everyone who sent such kind messages and kept us in their prayers!!

Now that I can breath a little I will finally try to post about our trip and the wonderful Miss Tessa!!  In the meantime here is the latest and greatest photo of her with her new big brother!   


( I think he's finally starting to warm up to her a little!)


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hospitals

Please say a prayer for my mother.  She was admitted for the third time to the hospital yesterday (this time to Cedars in LA) and it looks like she has a serious heart condition.  We find out tomorrow how bad it is and as you can imagine my entire family is extremely anxious and frightened right now.  Tessa spent 5 hours at the hospital with us yesterday while they were admitting my mom through the emergency room.  So much for all the advice about not subjecting your newly adopted child to too much stimulation and keeping your life simple for the first month.  Tessa had her own run in with hospitals today when she went for her first physical and blood draw.  (This was scheduled before we left to get Tessa and my mother insisted we keep the appointment) It was so traumatic for her she ended up projectile vomiting all over me and the hospital bed we were sitting on while they took the blood samples.  And, we have to do this two more times to finish all the blood tests her doctor wants done.  

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Yes, We Are Alive!

We're back!! Rest assured we are alive if not to well at the moment.  All the kiddos at Gladney seem to be battling either upper airway infections or pneumonia and unfortunately Tessa has been sick since the first day and we both caught it.  On top of that, my mom has been hospitalized twice since we got back.  Fun times. 

Tessa is truly amazing but things have been a work in progress.  While it was love at first sight for us I can't say the same for her.  In fact, I would have to say it was more like 'get those people the hell away from me NOW' for her.  She would go to anyone else as long as it was not me or Joe. I kid you not, anyone else was better then us. The child literally cried just looking at me.  While the Gladney training sessions had prepped us for the possibility of a child having a hard time transitioning I tell you  it is one thing to know it intellectually and another thing all together to experience it.  I was OK with it until last Sunday when I realized we had planes to get on the next day.  I then proceeded to have a full blown panic attack.  Luckily the plane rides - while loooooonnnnnggggg - provided a bonding/breakthrough for us all.  Little Ms. Tessa is finally showing us her true personality and she is an absolute joy!  She is quick to laugh and smile and she has the cutest little LaLa song she 'sings' as she tries to toddle along.  Really just to cute for words.  Neilan is having a bit of a hard time adjusting to not being our only anymore but time will help with that.  I will post again later when we have more of our sea legs under us.  There is a lot to tell but I need to process it a little more first.  Thank you to everyone who has called and sent such kind messages of support and congratulations.  I can't wait for you all to meet Tessa!  To tie you over, this photo was taken on our last day at the Guest House.  Isn't she beautiful?!