Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Noah is 6 months today!

video



Hard to believe we met him just one month ago today...although at times it feels like we just got back yesterday, we feel like we've known this little guy forever. It's just been nothing short of amazing what we've been through and what we continue to go through every day. I don't want to be one of those moms that claims that everything is peachy and perfect and my kid is peachy and perfect, we have our bad days. But even the bad days are just so awesome because we are parents, and Noah Arone is our son. And that is an unspeakably perfect thing!

Meeting Julie and family coming soon...had to share these things on his 1/2 birthday!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Gladney Caregivers and a few more things on Ethiopia



The caregivers at the Gladney Center really love and care for the children. It's a beautiful and overwhelming thing to see. I've posted here only photos of some of these amazing women with Noah Arone but I have many others of them loving lots of other babies...it's just safer to only post these for now. Anyway, just wanted to share how cool it was to see such love pouring out of these ladies for these kids...many of the caregivers were orphaned themselves as children, so they understand firsthand what it is like for these children and there is something about that that just can't be overlooked - it clearly makes a world of difference when you see the affection and genuine love, compassion and attachment between them. It's a beautiful thing.

Also, I remembered a few other little tidbits of info on Ethiopia to share. First off, Sprite was my best friend while we were there. Whenever I could find it, I would drink it because it helped to settle my ill feelings from the car rides and the diesel smell that overwhelmed me at times. It's not always available at the restaurants but when it is, if you're feeling queezy at all, drink it!

And when you hear an Ethiopian sound like they are gasping for air suddenly, that means 'yes'...this threw me off for a while at first as I wondered why everyone seemed to be surprised all the time, but once I learned that the gasp is their version of 'yea' or 'uhuh', I thought it was so cool, and even started gasping myself in agreement on things. It's literally just a quick and subtle inhale with a slightly audible gasp, so look out for it. Solomon, one of the drivers, does it a lot, I think because he is just so agreeable. I still do it here at home with our little guy and he loves to hear it.

On that note, one thing I wish I had done more of but am glad I did a little of, is pick up some of the sounds and mannerisms of the caregivers at the Gladney Center. I think it has really helped with Noah's adjustment to his new life, to still be able to hear me mimic some of the sounds he was used to hearing - things like the way they say his name and little 'baby talk' phrases you will hear when you are there. Just food for thought...

Happy Memorial Day weekend...stay tuned, my next post is going to be about Noah Arone meeting the Julie and family...with some fun photos too!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Meeting Grandma & Grandpa O


I have been remiss in my postings as of late. As a first-time mom of a very energetic, playful, happy baby, it's been tough to write and share all that I have wanted to as quickly as I'd like to. I still plan to post more on Ethiopia and our time there and hope to share much more info and photos and video as soon as I get the chance. But this post, this post is dedicated to Noah Arone's meeting his wonderful G'ma & G'pa O...my parents! They were technically here before Auntie L and as I said, things may be a bit out of order here for a while.

Nonetheless, G'ma and G'pa O were here just a few days after we arrived back home from Ethiopia. Noah took to them right away and we all had a fantastic time together. My dad hung up a few of the things we brought back from Ethiopia, fixed our front gate, helped prepare a car we are selling and still managed to make "Noah-roni" as he calls him laugh and smile quite often with his silliness. My mom just loved to glide with him and hold him close, and she also helped me organize all of his cute little clothes in his closet. It was so awesome to see them with him. Our first child, their first grandchild, and as you can see, happiness abounds.

Even the ladies working at baggage claim took time to come over and meet Noah. That was super sweet and he loved it. My mom got here just in time for Mother's Day, so we gave her a pretty Grandma locket with Noah and of course, George's photo in it. It was a fantastic Mother's Day, with my mom, as a mom, hangin' with the boys. Nothing but good times.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Latest and Greatest Noah Shots



Photos of meeting Auntie L and just some really cute pics from the past week...and don't let the nebulizer photos scare you. He has to get these treatments for a little while due to an upper respiratory infection. Luckily, he has learned to like them or at least tolerate them. And as you can see, no infection or much of anything else can get this little guy down! More later..

Friday, May 16, 2008

Food

A genius with the spoon already...
I'm jumping around here but this was too funny not to post.

video

Don't give up on me. I will post more about Ethiopia and our experiences thus far...just trying to catch up on life. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Leprosy Hospital

video
One of our favorite stops, the National Leprosy Hospital, the only one in Ethiopia.
video
video
And the best place to buy gifts - all made by the patients with proceeds going to the hospital. Don't miss it if you are going!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Ethiopia & Travel Tips


What a journey...we are happy to be home and settling in with mr. noah arone and we are THRILLED to have had the chance to spend 9 days and 9 nights in his home country, Ethiopia. Anil and I had an incredible time and though the trip was challenging in a lot of ways, merely because life there is so completely different from what we are used to so we were out of our comfort zone, we actually enjoyed the challenge. And we find that starting out our days as parents in a country, our son's country, where we had to think before we did just about anything, is a really cool way to begin. Now we take so much less for granted here at home, in Santa Monica, where we have so much. Our gratitude and humility grew by leaps and bounds after visiting our son's home country, and seeing all of the beautiful, happy people there. I am so happy that we were able to spend a good amount of time in Ethiopia, and I would not trade that experience for the world. I can't wait til my son is older and I can tell him all about the trip and share the photos and stories of everything we did and saw. It's absolutely mind blowing and forever changed us, just as I suspected it would. We look at life a lot differently now, and although we haven't had much time yet to really think things through and process it all and figure out what's next for our journey in life, we know that we will never be the same. And that's a very good thing.

I was in awe of the city, everywhere I turned I saw something that just moved me - whether it was a man sitting on the eucalyptus tree limbs that they use for scaffolding there (scary!) or a donkey carrying concrete bricks filled with heavier loot piled on top of them or a child begging through our car window for some change to eat - I was in complete and utter awe and wonder, trying to absorb it all. My life is much richer than it was before, and the path of this life has never felt more in sync and right on. We are incredibly fortunate and just blissful to be a family, to have traveled across the world to this amazing place to meet our son and bring him home and to have him here in our arms, right now. Unreal, surreal yet very very REAL.

A few families waiting to go meet their babies have asked for advice on travel. I am more than happy to give it. My advice may be different from others so take it for what it's worth. And please don't hesitate to ask questions if you have them. Again, these are only my opinions but happy to share. Here are some of the questions I've received and my best answers. I will post more about things as I think of them.

-What type of bottles did you bring? What type of bottles do they use there?
We brought Playtex Drop-ins...I plan to use the Born Free bottles back here in the U.S. but the drop-in system was ultra convenient for Ethiopia because you only have to wash the nipple and the rim really, and since you are using boiled or bottled (or in our case because we're paranoid, BOTH) water to clean them each time, it's nice to have less to clean. I don't know what type they were using at the care center, but they were not drop-ins. These kids do not appear to be fussy eaters though, give them food/formula, and they will take it down. They are fed, WELL, and I don't see it being a problem for you to use whatever bottle you'd like.

-How many diapers did you bring for each day? What size did you bring?
The Gladney travel packet says 10 per day. I think we used more and the Roberts, who we shared the Ayat House with, used less. I'd play it safe and go for 12 a day, but I'm crazy like that. I brought some Size 1 and some Size 2 and for Arone, they both worked. He's 5 months and weighs about 14 pounds. I have heard that if in between, go for the bigger, because they can hold more, well, you know...

-Size-should I get one of those on the bed, folding bassinet things? Do you think Abe would benefit from one of those?
We brought the Eddie Bauer folding travel bed since we were sharing the house and there was only one crib. I found it to be handy. Truthfully, we ended up putting him in it between us on the bed, because the first night we tried the floor and he didn't like it much. But it was nice to have so when we all fell asleep at the same time, we didn't have to worry about him rolling off the bed. I'd say if your baby is 5 months or under or a small 6-7 month, it's a good thing to bring. Much bigger than he was though and it might feel too confining.

-Anything you wish you would have brought? Anything you didn't need?
The only thing we didn't bring that I wish we had was sore throat medicine. Anil got a pretty bad one and none of the pharmacies we went to had a thing for it. Tafessa, the coordinator and one of the drivers (and a SUPER COOL human being I might add) took me to 4 or 5 pharmacies to check for anything, because he was in such bad shape, and we struck out. So any medicine you think you might possibly need, take. Also, I'm sure most of you realize this, but there is a decent chance you won't get your luggage right away, so try to pack the bare necessities including a change of clothes, underwear, and main toiletries/medicines in one of your carry-ons. And also be careful to keep your carry-ons to the necessary size/weight limits if you can. This will be a challenge but if you can, it's best. Otherwise, they may end up asking you to check it and then you lose your emergency stash. This didn't happen to us and we definitely had one piece that was over the limit, but it did happen to another family we were traveling with. Luckily for them, it arrived on time. We didn't have 3 of the 5 pieces we checked for half the trip.

I'm very happy I brought my laptop and a few memory cards and I have to say, my Flip Video camera. If you haven't seen these things, they are very small digital video cameras that take 30 or 60 minutes worth of footage and have a USB plug built right into them so you can download your clips easily and as often as you need to. This allowed me to get some really great videos of a bunch of scenery, scenes and gorgeous babies. And it takes up almost no space or weight at all. Occasionally I only brought the Flip and not my big camera along in an attempt to travel lighter.

Things I wish I hadn't bothered to bring - I can't think of much specifically. But I did learn that you can live on much less than you think if you have to...so if we go again, I will pack much less clothing and toiletries for us and make more room for the humanitarian aid. And I will leave the hairdryer at home. They are hard to use unless you are staying at the major hotels because of the voltage required, and in the end, I didn't much care what my hair looked like there anyway, as evidenced by photos. :)

-Did you bring any rice cereal? Do they eat that at the care center?
I didn't bring any rice cereal because they were still feeding Arone strictly formula and I didn't want to change his diet on the trip. I'm going to start him on cereal this week though, as our pediatrician said it's okay to do so. I would definitely try to find out what they are feeding your babes and mimic that for the trip. I don't know what they feed them when they start them on solids. It looked pretty pasty though, but the kids seemed to like it.

-Do all of the babies use a pacifier? Are they latex or silicone or something else?
They said that they stopped the use of pacifiers at the care center because as they were passed around, so was a lot of infection and illness. So they nixed them. We brought a few along just in case, and because our baby is such a sucker :), he took them just fine and they came in handy.

-Am I going to have a nervous breakdown while packing?
NO. Don't worry too much. Ask for help when necessary and trust your instincts. You will have what you need or you will make do. Just make sure when you get there to stop off and get a ton of bottled water. I drank it like it was going out of style. It's important because it's so easy to get dehydrated there. Plus you'll need it to wash bottles and brush your teeth.

-What are the most essential things you packed to take along with you, that were really really useful - couldn't have done with out, etc.?
The most essential things were the burp cloths (prefold cloth diapers are great all-purpose cloths), bottles (bring at least 6, mostly because of the plane rides), TOILET PAPER (or kleenex travel packs - have it with you everywhere you go, most bathrooms don't come equipped with TP), a small set of toiletries in the carry-on...definitely check the travel packet from Gladney, most of that stuff is good to have along. Also good to have a baseball cap to throw your hair in a ponytail underneath and go.

-What did you take along that you would say you didn't need to pack, just took up space, not really a necessity?
See above answer. I'll try to think of more and write again if/when I do.

-Is there anything you didn't take that you wish you would have?
Again, sore throat/cough medicine. Bring that and plenty of Tylenol and Ibuprofen. And baby medicine too, whatever your pediatrician recommends. Mine gave us a big list of stuff, if anyone wants me to send it to them, I can. I also took Lori's advice on the Boudreaux's Baby Kisses and that came in handy for the dry lips and cheeks on our little man.

-What ideas do you have for gifts for the caregivers? We were thinking of cash, but worry it is too impersonal. And then, what ideas do you have for gifts for Travis and Joanna, Belay?

We gave cash because Anil's sister organized a donation drive unbeknownst to us to raise money for these ladies who work so hard and give such love to these children. I also left a bunch of sample products for them to share. It's tough because there are so many caregivers. And usually your baby will have had a few 'special' caregivers who mostly looked after them, so you might want to consider bringing a 'special' gift for 3 or 4 if you are so inclined. Try to find out from Sister (the nurse at the centers) who the 'special mother' and other main caregivers were before you hand them out. :)

For Travis & Joanna, we took the Lydicks advice and got them some hot sauce, tea, chocolate and bbq sauce. I think they would appreciate just about anything, they are very cool peeps. And their kids are just awesome. I miss them. We gave Belay some really nice tea as well. I had a hard time thinking of anything else for him. He has a great sense of humor, so maybe something funny?

-Did you work with a travel agent - one recommended in the travel packet perhaps, or did you kind of just figure out travel on your own?
We did work with a travel agent - Susan Parr travel. I found it to be helpful to have someone handle our travel who does it all the time, especially when booking the ticket for Noah to come back with us. For instance, they knew that we needed to book his ticket under his Ethiopian name, then my husband's first name, and then his last. So if you do book on your own, don't book your baby's return flight with his American name. It won't work because that is not what will be on his passport and visa.

As I think of more, I will continue to write my thoughts. I hope this has been somewhat helpful. And again, just my opinions and take on things, for what it's worth.

Oh, one other thing, the diesel fuel smell in the city can get very overwhelming at times. I'm not sure if there's anything to do about it, but it may be worth looking into something homeopathic or anything that might help you to cope with the air.

Other than that, it's a beautiful place with a sight to see at every turn. Try to enjoy it and go with the flow while you're there. Absorb the culture and the people, it's so worth it. And go with the flow is probably some of the best advice I got before we left from Mary at Gladney. Schedules and plans change there pretty often - time sort of stands still there which is great but makes planning much looser so as she said, just be ready for anything and try not to stress about things and you will have an incredibly cool time. Take it all in, get as much rest as you can, and have fun!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Dreamland



I'm going way out of order here but I just wanted to post something uplifting tonight. These photos were shot on our way to one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to - Dreamland - which is about an hour and a half outside of Addis Ababa. It is a restaurant with a gorgeous view of Ethiopia's first crater lake. I didn't quite get the whole idea behind a crater lake but I think it's something about this mountain was a volcano and is now a serene and lovely lake in a mountain. Just awesome.

We had a great dinner there that night with Belay, one of the families we had traveled with and 2 additional families who had just arrived and met their babies. It was a blast. And funny to be the 'experts' at the whole parenting in Ethiopia dilemna, after 9 days on the job. This was our last night in Addis, and what a way to spend it. Breathtaking.

Pretty much right now we feel like we are living in Dreamland...things are not perfect. Noah Arone fusses, cries and poops...and sometimes he does more than his fair share of each of these things and makes no apologies. BUT he is the single most amazing thing that has ever happened to us. And if I didn't know this was all real, I would say it's a dream. It's that good. Crazy good.

Kolfe Boys


Since I had sent that one photo of Noah Arone and I with a few of the boys from the Kolfe Orphanage, I thought I better start with that since there have already been questions about the picture. This is a slideshow of the photos we took while visiting this orphanage. It's an orphanage in Addis Ababa for older boys, many of whom have 'aged out' of the adoptive system (maximum adoptable age is 14) so this is their home, until and unless they are able to find jobs and move elsewhere. Several of these boys are in school, a few of them are studying very hard. The blue room shown is their study room.

I'm still absorbing everything from the trip, and this is one of those things I just can't put into words. These boys have so little. And yet the ones we spoke to seemed full of hope. They were very smart and spoke good English and all were attending university, pursuing careers in everything from natural sciences to law. Not all the boys are this hopeful and ambitious but they are all full of life.

The photo I had sent Laura previously is probably the worst room we saw at Kolfe, so I wanted to quickly share the others. I'm trying to think of a way to make these kids lives better somehow. I know many others are also finding a way to help. I'll start by sending a few of these photos back for the boys we met. This small effort can mean the world to these boys. We have seen how they react when receiving a letter or photo. It's a tiny effort for us and just makes their day.

Much more to come...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

HOME




We made it!! Home at last...and very happy to be. Noah Arone seems to be adjusting quite well so far, based on the amount of sleeping he has been doing. Very peaceful. I need to go to sleep as well since I am literally falling over with exhaustion at the moment. Wanted to let everyone know that I have many stories and photos to share in the coming weeks. And that I am so grateful for my sister for keeping up the blog while we were away and couldn't access it. Thanks, sis. I think you just might take the cake for BEST AUNTIE L EVER! Noah can't wait to meet you next weekend. And thanks for the warm welcome HOME, Chris & Heather, Shannon, Liz and Crystal. That meant the world to us. We love you guys!!!!

More, much more tomorrow and beyond...

And so happy to hear about the flood of referrals while we were gone. Email me if you received one because it's likely that I have a photo or two of your baby! I think I took pics of almost every one. I couldn't help myself. They are all beautiful and the caregivers loved posing with them. Super sweet. :)

If you asked me to take photos for you, I have and I will hopefully get a chance to send tomorrow. For now, must sleep. G'nite!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

From the Addis Ababa Airport



"Auntie L" here one last time! I know you thought you wouldn't hear from me again, but Angie sent these about 3 hours ago from the Addis Ababa airport so I had to share! Pay close attention to the 2nd picture, hehe. This is what she had to say . . .

I was able to get a few photos uploaded here at the Addis Ababa airport waiting for our flight home! Hope this will do for now...many, many more pics and stories to come. The last several days became hectic and we weren't able to get to the internet, but here is what we have for now.
love,
angie


I hope you all enjoy and keep up those positive thoughts and prayers as the Kurian's fly home to Washington and on to Santa Monica!!! :)

Bringing Noah HOME



What an amazing journey from March 16, 2008 (hanging out at the pier) to April 28, 2008 (holding Noah in their arms in Addis Ababa)!

Hi everyone, it's "Auntie L"! This should be my last blog for Angie since she will be home tomorrow, yes that's right, tomorrow!! I talked to her this morning and she was frantically packing because they were getting picked up in 2 hours and everything was everywhere! She said to tell everyone she was so excited to get back to Santa Monica to show Noah his room and of course introduce him to his big brother Georgie! Of course we have no pictures, but she promises more pictures than we can imagine and tons of wonderful stories as soon as she gets back!

Last night they went to Dreamland. It is a crater lake that used to be a volcano about an hour from Addis Ababa. They and the family sharing the house with them had dinner with a couple of new families that had just arrived and gotten their babies All she could say was that is was really beautiful and they had a fantastic time!

I guess that is all I know for now! If everything goes as planned, they leave Ethiopia around 10:15pm tonight and arrive in D.C. at 7:55am tomorrow. They have a 4hour lay over and arrive at LAX at 3:05pm. Think lots of positive thoughts and prayers for a safe journey HOME!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Noah Update!

Hi everyone! It's "Auntie L" again! Sorry no pictures this time! Ange sent a quick short email this morning and I wanted to share!

We are having a great day bc we are doing one of my favorite things - SHOPPING!!! We just went to the leprosy hospital where they make all of the crafts by hand and I bought SO MUCH STUFF and it is unbelievably beautiful. I even got to spin the yarn with a sweet lady before hand. This was one of my favorite stops so far -- unbelievably cool. I will have pics to add later. Heading to the marketplace for more shopping in a minute.

Noah Arone is doing great!!! We are super happy (especially now that we're well!)
Love,
Angie, Anil and Noah


Angie says that Noah is very vocal! He is either squealing in delight at just about anything or letting them know he is hungry! My mom was talking to her yesterday and they could hardly hear each other because Noah was squealing so much! Mom says it was a GREAT sound!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

More from Ethiopia



Hi everyone! It's "Auntie L" again! I talked to Angie on the phone again this morning and she sounded wonderful! Being a mom is totally agreeing with her. She wanted to send lots more pictures, but the connections was very slow and this was all she could get out! She promised to try to send more in the next couple days if she could get a connection.

The ladies in the first pics are of Noah with his caregivers at the Children's home in an outfit they gave him. The one with long straight hair was Noah's "special mother." Angie said when they arrived at the Children's Home for the coffee ceremony all of the ladies swarmed them and shouted "Arone!" They all wanted to have a picture of them with hugging Noah, kissing Noah, smiling with Noah, etc. Angie said she has tons of pictures with Noah and the caregivers because the ladies loved Noah Arone and couldn't get enough.

Oh, and GREAT news . . . they stopped by the airport and Anil went to check on their missing bags. At first they said that none had arrived and then he asked if they were sure and they found 2 of their bags. One had all of their other personal items, more clothes, etc. for all three of them and the other was a humanitarian aid bag. Now they are only missing one humanitarian aid bag and they are determined to get it!

On a side note, Angie said to tell you she has tons of great photos and videos of the other Gladney babies and can't wait to share them with you when she gets home next week!