Tag Archives: siblings

Family Success Story: The Zettermans

July 22, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Jenny Zetterman hopes that, one day, other families will look at her family and think, “You know what? Nothing should keep us from adopting a special needs child.” Because that’s exactly what Jenny and her husband, Andrew, thought when the opportunity found them.

The Zettermans, who recently moved out to Elkhorn (where their girls will attend Spring Ridge Elementary), adopted their youngest, Annalyse, when she was just 5 weeks old. She had been diagnosed with spina bifada and hydrocephalus (a build-up of fluid in the brain) and was determined paralyzed from the waist down.

Jenny and Annalyse

Jenny and Annalyse

“I was able to go before the rest of the family and stay in the NICU with her for four days while the nurses and doctors gave me information on spina bifada,” Jenny says. “This was extremely helpful because we knew very little about spina bifada. We had two days between finding out about her and flying to go be with her, so we didn’t have time to research while packing and preparing for a baby.”

Life for the Zettermans before Annalyse was fairly typical, although they had adopted once before with daughter McKenna, 8. Nevertheless, Jenny reflects back on that time, referring to it as “the easy years” of parenting. “All three girls were pretty independent…They hadn’t hit pre-teen years, so they still thought their parents were the best people in the world.”

Of course, McKenna, Kaedyn, 7, and Brea, 5, were thrilled to be adding a little sister to their family. “They had a few questions about her diagnosis, but overall, they were just excited to meet her,” Jenny says. “They had to wait about a week after I met her to join me so they wouldn’t miss too much school. I’m sure that wait was very hard for them.” Fortunately, Jenny used the iPhone “Facetime” capability to call home and let her girls see the new baby from the NICU.

Andrew with Brea and Kaedyn.

Andrew with Brea and Kaedyn

According to Jenny, the family dynamic hasn’t changed much since they adopted Annalyse. The only difference? The older sisters love helping out with their little sister and teaching her new things. “Annalyse is just another member of the family…We have a lot more doctor’s appointments and live life around a baby’s schedule again, but that’s about it. I think you just adjust to whatever you have to adjust to.”

Jenny and Andrew’s 13-year marriage has also kept the family solid. “We have a strong commitment to our marriage. I believe our kids can see that and take comfort in it.”

Looking back on the adoption process, Jenny shakes her head. “We went into it knowing that we could be adopting a child with a special need,” she explains. “One thing we did say was that we would consider many different types of needs, but not one that required a wheelchair [because] our house wouldn’t allow for this type of need, and we had just moved in. It seems so silly to us now that we ever uttered those words—‘just not a wheelchair.’”

McKenna

McKenna

Jenny believes too many people, including parents, get too caught up on inconveniences in their own lives that they forget to think about what other people are dealing with or will have to deal with in their lives. “I am so thankful that we ended up letting go of our reservations,” she adds. “We all are capable of so much more than we think we are.”

As for Annalyse, Jenny stresses that she’s a fantastic child. “She’s not blessed to have us; we’re blessed beyond measure to have her in our family. She’s not our ‘special needs daughter;’ she’s just, plain and simple, our daughter.”

Jeannie Ohira and Joseph Pittack

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Summer is in full swing in the metro, bringing the kind of heat that make us all want to scream for some good old-fashioned ice cream. Jeannie Ohira and Joseph Pittack, the brother-sister duo and proud owners of Ted and Wally’s Premium Homemade Ice Cream at 12th and Howard streets, can accommodate those cravings with their all-natural ice cream available in some tantalizing and daring flavors.

Both Omaha natives, Ohira and Pittack began their ice cream careers by working at Ted and Wally’s under previous owners Dave Kirschenman and Julie Gilbert. In 2001, Kirschenman and Gilbert decided to sell the shop and Ohira and Pittack were up for the adventure.

“I called Joe, who had moved to Lincoln to go to school to become an English teacher, and said ‘Hey, do you want to come back, try to get a loan, and run this?’” Ohira says.20130506_bs_3374_Web

Her brother was onboard, and the two quickly rolled up their sleeves, staying faithful to the founding philosophy of quality and community but making some modifications along the way. The partnership proved to be not only ambitious but successful, too. Under Ohira and Pittack’s ownership, the shop switched to using all-natural ingredients purchased fresh from local merchants. In order to accomplish this, they created their own recipe for the ice cream base to replace the previous one purchased from Hiland Dairy. The result was a more costly and labor-intensive process but one that has earned awards for Ted and Wally’s, as well as loyal customers both locally and out-of-state.

“It’s a product we make in-house, made from scratch, and nobody else has our recipe,” Pittack says. “Ted and Wally’s in the Old Market has been doing it since 1986, so it’s an Omaha tradition. We have generations of people that come in here now.”

Ted and Wally’s unique flavors are what garner the most attention. Sure, the shop offers traditional flavors, such as chocolate and vanilla, but Ohira and Pittack tend to showcase more creative selections they’ve invented themselves. Sometimes, shop employees and the public chime in with flavors they’d like to see.20130506_bs_3379_Web

To date, Ohira and Pittack have created more than 1,000 ice cream flavors, not including variations. Some public favorites include Monica’s Unicorn Farts, a cotton candy-marshmallow-cake mix with Lucky Charms and sprinkles. Suggested by a Ted and Wally’s employee, the flavor was a big hit, as was Mr. Cigar, a cigar-flavored ice cream celebrating the birthday of Mr. Cigar at S.G. Roi Tobacconist. Another customer favorite is Quit Yer Job and Eat Chocolate, a concoction of chocolate mousse ice cream with chocolate chips, brownies, and Oreos. But those flavors, albeit tasty, are tame compared to some of the other creations Ohira and Pittack have come up with.

Some of the more unusual flavors have been bacon, fish, and prime rib. Sriracha ice cream has been on the chalked menu board, as well as jalapeño. Recently, Ohira created a new flavor featuring grilled octopus, which, she admits, “is probably not going to be a big seller.”20130506_bs_3462_Web

As for what inspires these nontraditional flavors, everything is game. Sometimes, a friend’s story will spark an idea; other times, it’s a book. Ohira says she must’ve created at least 100 new flavors after reading Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin. But most of all, Ohira and Pittack credit their culturally diverse family—as well as their own preferences for variety and newness—with being big inspirations for Ted and Wally’s unique selection.

“I get bored doing the regular stuff and like to try different things,” Ohira says. “I remember people used to say that we have weird flavors. One of those was cotton candy, which isn’t that far out there. But now it’s way more fun and people are a lot more receptive.”

Ted and Wally’s Premium Homemade Ice Cream
1120 Jackson St.
402-341-5827
tedandwallys.com

Sibling Harmony

May 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bev Carlson

I had an interesting conversation recently with a friend, a father of three. He was talking about his two oldest children, both incredibly talented musicians. The son can play just about any instrument. The daughter has a voice like an angel.

“It’s just such a shame they refuse to perform together,” he said. When I asked why, he shrugged and said, “They just can’t stop fighting.”

His response surprised me. My guess? These kids will grow out of it. This was a family that exuded harmony on almost every level. Very engaged, involved parents. Bright, accomplished children. But siblings that, for now, could barely get along. Ever.

I understand sibling conflict. I really do. I have a younger brother, emphasis on “younger” because “little” stopped working when he hit six feet or so. Now, at 6’5”, he’s an officer in the U.S. Navy who carries a wide command and a powerful presence.

Well, I clearly recall back to the days when I could push him around at will. Of course, I was the ONLY one who could do so. If anyone else even looked at him like they were going to tease him or bully him, they had to get through me first—and that simply wasn’t happening. We were four years apart, and even though he could irritate me just by walking into my bedroom, he was still my little brother, and that meant I had his back.

I still do.

“Relationships that never really gelled in childhood only grow more distant with time…I hear friends talk about it a lot, and it makes me sad. I don’t want that for my children.”

It’s not that way for a lot of siblings—adult or otherwise. Relationships that never really gelled in childhood only grow more distant with time. Brothers and sisters who experience mutual trauma walk away from the conflict and each other. Siblings with oil-and-water personalities determine that it’s not worth the effort to find a balance, especially once the parental connection is gone. I hear friends talk about it a lot, and it makes me sad. I don’t want that for my children.

I really don’t know any of the secrets of creating sibling harmony, but I do claim a couple of kids who, for the most part, get along and enjoy each other. I love to hear their conversations about books or teachers or issues. Video games and YouTube videos are other common topics. They brag about each other when they think I’m not listening. They have their moments when they genuinely annoy one another, but I rarely have to intervene.

Maybe it’s helped that they’ve heard since day one that they are expected to look out for each other. “You guys run in nearly the same circles,” they’ve heard from me. “You have a better idea of whether the kids you’re hanging out with are nice or not.” They attend each other’s events and performances. They partner up on amusement rides. They are generally encouraged to help each other when they can. “Because,” as they hear from me, “you are lifetime friends.”

I may have just gotten lucky with the personality mix of my two, but I also took some advice that I got when they were very small. Now that they are young teenagers, I believe it might be paying off.

Here are some expert suggestions from Scholastic.com:

  • Avoid comparisons. Nothing causes more short- and long-term damage to the sibling dynamic than comparing academic or extracurricular achievements. Give honest, specific feedback and support each of your children toward their individual strengths and the skills each needs to strive for. Don’t ever stack them against each other.
  • Intervene when they argue, but be selective. There’s a big difference between fighting and problem solving. Rather than letting them always duke it out, teach them cooperation and conflict-resolution skills, like taking turns.
  • Introduce meaningful apologies. Rather than forcing an angry child to say he’s sorry, which will only produce an insincere apology, let him cool down first. Then talk to him about how to make amends for hurting another person’s feelings.

As it usually is, starting early and being consistent is key. And children also benefit when they see their parents model warm and loving relationships with their own siblings. But for the most part, some discontent with a brother or sister is simply part of growing up and provides a training ground for finding your voice.

Oh, and one last thing. Tell all of your children how much you love them. All the time. A child who feels well-loved has fewer reasons to lash out at their siblings.

Beads Bind Sibling Duo

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Small, multi-hued, and made of various materials, beads have always been a part of a whole rainbow of cultures. From their origin in North Africa to love beads notoriously worn by hippies of the ’60s to Native American tribes, people have been adorning their bodies with beads for centuries.

Omaha native Adam Michael Langdon, 33, saw a business in beads. His mother, local business owner Laurie Langdon-Gerber, has already made a huge name for herself with her own successful jewelry company, Elisa Ilana. It’s only fitting that two of her children are cruising  down the same creative path.

Along with younger sister Elisa Gerber, 32, Langdon runs Adam Michael Jewelry, as well as Designer Beads and Charms, which are both located on 120th and Blondo streets. The shops carry the popular Troll Beads, Chamilia Jewelry, and an onslaught of other big brands. Their ardent ambition is evident. They have a staff of about 10, and even as the interview is going on, Langdon’s agile hands stay busy setting up Christmas displays while Gerber diligently works on her computer. The brother-sister team works well together, although they will be the first to admit they have their days.

“We can tear each other’s heads off or be high-fiving all day,” Langdon says. “Depends on the day,” Gerber playfully adds.20121205_bs_7045 copy

While their tight, almost inexplicable bond clearly goes beyond just the DNA that ties them together, working side-by-side has been a true test…If that doesn’t tear a relationship apart, then nothing will. With the matriarch of the family also being in the bead and jewelry business, things have the potential to get heated, but the mutual respect they share for one another runs deep.

“We are kind of in competition with her because she sells Pandora [another popular brand of jewelry],” Langdon says. “We pick each other’s brain, and it’s usually over dinner. If there’s any flak to give, it’s all in good fun.”

As a family-owned operation, it’s the small things that set them apart from larger corporations. The staff is ready to help the customer every step of the way, even if it means designing the bracelet or necklace for you. The brother-sister duo is intent on keeping it that way.