Monday, December 19, 2011

Just the Beginning...

What do you do at 4am when you can't sleep? Write on your blog. I think that this will be the last entry. We started this blog when we began the adoption process with Mekebo, about 5 years ago. After the emotional 3 year process to bring home Kokeb, Brian and I have decided that this will probably be the end to our Ethiopian adoption journey. But, every time I have said "never", things have turned out differently.

We left Addis Ababa on Thursday night after a few hours delay due to a malfunctioning oven. Kokeb did wonderfully on the 17 hour flight to Washington DC. She cried for the last hour, but everyone sitting around us were so wonderful and never made us feel bad for having a crying child. She snuggled with Daddy a lot of the time.

 She figured out that in the back of the plane, there were crackers and juice. She wanted to take walks to the back of the plane a lot. The flight attendants all knew her name by the end of the trip.

 She ran in the halls at Washington DC. It took us a while to get through US Customs, but Kokeb officially became a US Citizen on Friday morning (December 16). This is a picture of Daddy walking through the halls at O'Hare. Kokeb slept on both flights, from Washington DC to O'Hare and O'Hare to Madison.

I wish that I had a picture, but there were a lot of special people to meet Kokeb at the Madison airport. Her Nanna Anna, Papa Steve, Aunt Kristina and Lillian, Aunt Kara and Kaelyn, Papa and Grandma Kanis, Uncle Matt, Aunt Pam and cousin Kaitlyn. Of course, Eli and Mekebo were the first ones to kiss their baby sister. She loved riding in her car seat all the way home. Brian and I slept the whole way home; thank goodness for Papa and Grandma who drove us home.

Kokeb is adjusting well to her new surroundings. The Christmas tree, lights, brothers, new bed, different food, and a lot of new faces. 

Yesterday she was excited to go outside. She loves getting on her hat because she knows that it means we get to go somewhere. She liked walking through the snow.

Here she is giving her big brother, Mekebo, a big smile.

Elijah is getting really good at changing her diaper. He also wanted to try feeding her last night. He did a great job. 

I love this yogurt! Kokeb is full of silliness. She talks all the time and makes silly faces. 

Eli had a chance to feed her? Well, make way for big brother Mekebo too!

Kokeb is really good at going up the stairs, not so good at getting down. 

I can't express how blessed we are. I am so happy to be waking up in the middle of the night, changing diapers, feeding a baby, making bottles, and of course, getting some big sloppy kisses from the most beautiful girl I have ever known. Sometimes you wonder if your heart is big enough to love another person...but my heart is pouring over. I know Brian feels the same way. 

We are not only blessed because of Kokeb, but this journey has made us realize what wonderful family and friends that we have: from my parents who watched the boys while we were in Africa, to all the people at the airport, to all of the clothes from Aunt Pam, Aunt Erin, Terri, Jody, Kelly, Ingrid and Melissa, to Ruthie who also took a turn in watching the boys, to the wonderful tote full of goodies and clothes from Amanda, to Dan and Sheila who warmed up our house for us, to Paco who let us stay at his house before we left for Africa, to all the people that donated money and other items for the orphanages, and to everyone who have been praying for us. Of course, we owe a big thanks to the people at Helawi Orphanage who took such wonderful care of  her for the first 15 months of her life. Mulu and Birtukan will forever be a part of Kokeb's life story. We are forever grateful. 

And of course, without my wonderful husband, who calmed me down daily during this process, I couldn't have done this. I am so blessed to have someone like you who wanted to go through this process with me. I think we make a pretty good team! I love you.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Last night in Ethiopia

Kokeb slept from 7pm last night until 6am this morning. The nannies told us she woke up at around 3am to have milk, so we were awake anticipating her waking up, but she never did! Today was a relaxing day. We had the whole day to get into a routine and hang around the Guest House. We took a lot of walks. Kokeb loves being carried in the ergo carrier. She had her first taste of ice cream and loved it. She eats anything...tomatoes, mangos, carrots. She is definitely taking advantage of us and we let her. She wants to be carried all the time! She already has us wrapped around her little finger. She has the funniest expressions. She wrinkles up her nose. She also started talking a little more. Another tooth popped through during the night, so now she has 3 on the bottom and 4 on the top. Some of the workers at the Guest House braided her hair today. The only difficult time that she has is before naps/bed. She cries and looks at the door like she wants someone she knows to come in. I can't imagine the thoughts that are going through her head. She took a 3 hour nap this afternoon. She is a tosser and a turner. She hates her diapers being changed. Tomorrow we pick up our final paperwork and head to the airport at about 6pm ET time (9am US time on Thursday). We can't wait for her to meet her family and friends. Eli and Mu- remember the book that we put together of pictures of our family for Kokeb? Whenever we show her the pictures of the two of you she gets a smile. I think she already knows that you are two special boys. Remember, when you see her for the first time, she may be really scared, but she will learn to love you both. We will call you on Friday morning when we arrive in the US. Tell Papa thanks for fixing our door. We miss you both a lot. Don't forget...we will have to bring Koki to see the lights when we get home!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My cup runneth over

Sweet baby girl is asleep. It is 7pm. What a day. I think I spent a majority of the morning crying. We were able to meet and talk with one of Kokeb's special nannies. We learned a lot more about her. Then the Helawi Foundation Orphanage had a farewell ceremony for Kokeb. I won't go into specifics, but it was amazing. She has a very special family there...they all love her as if she were their own. I do have to say, the very cutest thing was Kokeb passing out popcorn to everyone from the basket during the coffee ceremony. She just waddled her way from each person to the next.

We then went to the US Embassy. This went very smooth. Kokeb was a trooper. She loves traveling in the van; wait until she has to sit in a car seat!

She normally naps about 3 hours in the afternoon, but today she probably only got 40 minutes total. She fell asleep in the van and during a neighborhood walk. She is warming up to us. Today her smiles were abundant. She played with us and held our hands as she walked. She LOVES being held. She even pretended to talk on the phone.

Tonight after supper (which consisted of bananas and peach applesauce because she spent about an hour this afternoon in pain from being constipated) I gave her a tubby. It was an event. Does she ever have the hair! Tomorrow I get to take a hair braiding class, but I am not sure it will help me or not. I have never known how to braid. Oh goodness.

Brian walked with her to get her to sleep. We will see how the night goes. The nanny says she wakes up at about 3am to have milk. She is an early riser, usually before or around 6am. Oh man, the Anderson house is about to be rocked.

My cup is running over. My heart is full. She is a perfect part to our family. I can't wait for my family and friends to see her. Yes, she probably won't smile at first, but she is full of them deep down. Two more days in Ethiopia, then we head home. 

Jill said the internet is too slow for pictures.  BOO! :)

Monday, December 12, 2011


You would think we were first time parents. We were so tired last night, went to bed at 10:30pm, but both of us were wide awake at 2am. We talked in the dark about what we thought Kokeb was going to be she has changed. We played silly games on Brian's blackberry and I read the book The Help (thanks Mom, I love it). We left the Guest House at 9am and dropped off some papers at the CHSFS Office. We met Martha and the lawyer who have been the ones working this whole time on Kokeb's paperwork. They told us how Kokeb's case was very difficult. We expressed our thanks many times over. Then we headed over to Helawi. We brought a mega load of donations. They were THRILLED! They loved all of the formula and loved the pajamas that Pam bought. We had at least 10 containers of Big Cow (imagine like 4 normal formula cans in one), 8 cans of Bebelac for the infants, tons of diapers (disposable and cloth), a case of tylenol, augmentin, and vitamins. It was like Christmas for them. They were so appreciative. Thanks to everyone who donated...I wish you could have seen their faces light up. After handing in our donations, we walked up to Kokeb's room. One of her favorite nannies, Mulu, was holding her. Of course Brian and I were sobbing even before we saw her. Amazingly, she did not cry. She came to me without a fuss. I didn't think she had changed as much as I had imagined. She showed off her new talent...walking. Because of her large abdomen, she waddles like a 42-week pregnant woman. It makes me laugh just thinking about it. Amanda, she was wearing a 6-9 month dress. Ahhhh! We spent a lot of time outside with her. She can crawl up the stairs. And her bottom lip, well, you will have to see it for yourself. That girl can pout. We left around 11am and went to a presentation about the humanitarian projects that CHSFS is doing. Brian and I were excited to learn that they have been working in the very rural area that Mekebo's birth mother lives. They are just finishing a hospital there. Of course, we had to ask about volunteer opportunities. It sounds like what we have been looking for. After lunch, we headed back over to Helawi and woke Koki up to bring her back to the Guest House. She enjoyed the van ride, but was very sad when we reached the Guest House. She didn't cry much, but she looked sad. By the end of the day we were able to get a few smiles and some little words out of her. We tried playing with every toy and even blowing bubbles, but not much luck. She wants us to hold her all of the time, and of course we oblige. She has 2 bottom teeth and 4 top teeth. She was chewing on her fingers; must be getting some more in. Tsion, one of the managers at Helawi told me that they have been praying every day that Kokeb's family would come to bring her home. I told her that I had thought that the staff at Helawi was praying that Kokeb would stay and we were praying that we could bring her home. We are exhausted tonight. It is only 7pm, but it won't be long before I am asleep. I am actually surprised that I could write this. Sorry if the sentences don't make sense. Hope everyone is well. Tomorrow we have our farewell ceremony, Embassy appointment, and we take Kokeb into our care for good. Eli and Mekebo- We can't wait for you to hug your sister. We told her all about you. We told her that you won't wrestle her though. Are you being good for Papa and Grandma? Make sure you sleep in your own beds! Love you and we will see you in 4 days!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Saint Mary Day

We have always wanted to attend a church service in Ethiopia, but we have never had the chance...until today. It was amazing and each minute I kept pinching myself to make sure I was really experiencing such an amazing thing. Our driver, Solomon, picked us up at 7am. We traveled about 40 minutes to Entoto Mountain in Addis. He explained that today was a very special day, Saint Mary Day. This happens two times a year (Jess, what is the chance, huh?). We drove to the top of Entoto Mountain to attend church (Kiddus Raguel) at the oldest church in Addis Ababa. There were people singing and dancing all over the streets in Addis. People swarmed through the gates to the church. We never entered the church building because the service took place outside of the church. We even were blessed by the Prince of the church. We left the service about 30 minutes before it ended...and we had already been there for 2 hours. The chanting, dancing and rituals were amazing to watch. We had no idea what was being said, but the people were clapping and bowing and singing. Brian did take some footage of the service. Mom, I just kept thinking how you would have loved it. We will come back again so you can experience it. After the service we were able to see the Saint Mary Church and Museum. This is where the Emperor Menalik lived and was buried. Our driver also drove us through the Merkato. Holy smokers. I have NEVER seen so many people in one area before. New York City has nothing on the Merkato in Addis Ababa. It was breathtaking. People were selling everything you can think of. We came back to the Guest House this afternoon and took a nap. It is 7:30pm here now (on Sunday) and I think I better stay up pretty late so that I actually sleep tonight. Tomorrow is a big day. We get to see Kokeb and bring her to the Guest House in the afternoon. Maybe tomorrow night we will post some pictures. The internet has been working here which has been nice. We talked to our boys yesterday and they sounded pooped (Thanks for watching them Ruthie! I hope that they refrained from Bad Guys/Good Guys). I am sure they had fun with Macy too! Mekebo and Elijah- We love you! Did you listen to Melissa and Sarah today? We will be home in 5 days with your sister.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

First Day.

This morning we arrived at sunny Addis at 7:30am.The flight went well and seemed to pass rather fast. Brian and I probably only slept for a total of 1 hour each, but surprisingly, we were not tired when we arrived. Brian, in total Brian style, made about 20 friends on the plane while I watched movies and chatted to the college student sitting next to me.
After arriving at the Guest House we called a driver and got many things accomplished on our list. We had to change over dollars to birrs, get some shopping done for some friends (we got Lecha a super cute dress), shop for diapers and formula. We also were able to find Kebebe Tshehai Orphanage. When we arrived with the donations (many of the ones today were from Ingrid and Melissa…thanks!) we met with the head nurse. We told her that we also wanted to donate formula and diapers and she asked if we would  come back on Monday or Tuesday. So, Brian might have to take a trip there himself later in the week. We also bought a LOT of coffee.
We went to spend some of the money that was donated by our family and friends for the orphanage. We had 11,000.00 birr to spend, and after filling up two carts, and almost completely clearing out one grocery store of diapers, we ended up spending only 4,800.00 birr. WOW! Our friends and family is amazing. The orphanages are going to be thrilled.
Tomorrow we getting up early and heading to the Entoto Mountain. Our driver is going to take us to church. He told us it was a very special day tomorrow, so we are very excited!
According to our schedule, we won’t see Kokeb until Monday. Our Embassy Appoinment is Tuesday and that is when we get to take her into our care…for good.We are the only ones at the Guest House until tomorrow night, so it is a little quiet here. We miss our friends from our previous travel group. By the way, Bereket, thanks for the sweet message you left for Kokeb. 
Elijah and Mekebo: We miss you a lot but we know that you are having a great time watching Christmas TV specials with Papa and Grandma. Remember how we learned about “E.T. Purrs on the Red Nile Med”? Well, we flew over the MEDiterranean Sea and the Nile River. We were also really close to the Red Sea. We get to see your baby sister on Monday. I can’t wait to show you pictures!

We hope everyone has a great weekend! Peace and love from Ethiopia.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Time Together

Tonight Brian and I are enjoying some quiet time together. I like to consider this the calm before the unknown. We did have the afternoon and evening to travel into Washington DC but decided just to chill and relax at the hotel. Tomorrow morning we begin our long flight to Ethiopia.

We are so anxious to see our baby girl. Today we had a "discussion" about who gets to hold her first. We keep anticipating what she will be like, how she has changed since July. I just keep coming back to the fact that we are so blessed to be bringing her home. It is still surreal.

Elijah and Mekebo, we love you and already miss you. Please use your manners and help Grandma with chores. Mekebo, always remember that Papa will win the battle. Keep memorizing your lines for the Christmas Musical. Maybe you could keep a little book and write down the things that you do each day. You are going to be awesome big brothers.

Thank you so much to our friend, Paco, who let us stay at his house until 3am this morning in Madison. We are so blessed to have you as our friend.

Until we arrive in a different continent and time zone...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Pure Bliss: Our Christmas Miracle

Brian likes to wake up many times during the night to check his e-mail to see if we received any news from the US Embassy. Lo and behold, this morning at 3am there was an e-mail stating that our "case" had been cleared. What does this mean? Brian and I are traveling to Ethiopia to bring home our Kokeb! Of course we couldn't go back to bed. This day has been a little bit foggy and overwhelming.

I don't think it has really set in completely yet. I still feel, after waiting for three years, that we have to continue to wait. It has been over 4 months since we have seen her. I can't imagine how she has changed. She will be 16 months on December 22.

I would be fooling myself if I thought the next week or months are going to be an easy transition. Everything will be new to her...being outside in the cold weather, the language, the people that surround her, the new sounds, the time change, the food. However, there are two things that I think will help her out tremendously: Eli and Mekebo.

As Brian and I prepare to leave for this exciting adventure, I am still reminded daily of how blessed we are. We are so blessed so be able to smother this little girl with kisses and to share our love. We are so blessed with so many wonderful friends and family. Yes, we did have to wait. Yes, I did have to work on my patience. Yes, there were days where I was frustrated (thank goodness for Brian who always helped to calm me down). Thanks to everyone who has continued to pray for Kokeb.

Tonight I was beginning to pack suitcases (thanks Amanda for assisting; this girl thing is not something I am used to). I am so excited to be able to bring all of the donations that we have received! Everyone has been so generous and the boys and girls are going to love everything.

This is our Christmas miracle. This is the best gift that we could have received. Our Christmas cards will be late this year, but I promise it won't take three years!