Sunday, December 23, 2007

What a Merry Christmas!

This time last year, I was waiting on pins and needles for that call telling me to pack my bags for Ethiopia. Christmas came and left and I was still waiting. New Years Day came and left and still no word. For those of you not in the adoption world, waiting on that travel call is excruciatingly difficult. Once you are matched with a child you begin to bond and fall in love with that little face on the referral picture and you savor any small personality description that comes along during your wait. Then comes the worry. You worry about the health of your child, you worry that your child may be hungry (even if you know the orphanage caregivers are well trained and love on the babies), you worry about your baby being scared or cold, you worry about EVERYTHING! You just want to be there with your child...the child that has completely taken over your heart.

That's where I was this time last year. But on January 12th, the day before my birthday, I finally got the call telling me to pack my bags. What a wonderful birthday gift. Fast forward almost a year later. I went to the mall today to pick out my gift from Aaron. Addison was getting a little cranky which makes it a challenge to enjoy my shopping experience. As I was about to try on a coat, I heard Addison start to cry a little. In an instant, I flashed back to my trying Christmas of 2006, remembering just how sad and anxious I was to travel to Ethiopia to pick up Addison. At that moment, I put the coat back on the rack, headed for Addison, and told Aaron that we should head home so Addison could take her nap. Now I still want a new coat (and a new purse as well:-)), but shopping malls, coats, and handbags will always be available. It was just something about that moment that reminded me that my best gift of 2007 would not be wrapped in a pretty box and placed under the Christmas tree. She was right in front of me reaching out to be picked up. What a difference a year makes.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

What's Up With Addison?

O.K. I know I haven’t posted in quite some time. It’s been at least two months since I put my private thoughts out there for fellow blog lovers. So let catch you up on what’s happening with the star of our family…Little Miss Addison.

She’s a walking machine! Addison started walking at 14 months. So that means she has approximately 50 days of walking experience. But you can’t tell Addison that she’s a novice walker. This babe will break out in a sprint toward the steep steps inside our home, or exhibit fancy footwork to get around her 40 - something- year -old parents when she’s being naughty.

Just look at her running into her room!
Not only is Addison walking, she’s become quite the dancer/bouncer/grooving to the beat girl. Yep, my girl has rhythm. Although she is usually the youngest in her music class, she leads the way when it comes to smiling when she hears her favorite song, as well as swaying, bouncing, rocking, and rolling. Addison has already figured out how to turn on the CD player in her bedroom. Now we placed this CD player in her room so that she could fall asleep listening to classical music and lullabies, but Addison’s curiosity lead to her discovering that pressing the button to the left results in music that is much louder and upbeat. She actually kept pushing the buttons until she landed on a top 40s station (that happened to be playing hip hop music at the time). Yes, Addison is in the house!!!

She’s into books! Addison is an avid reader. Or will be. She loves books and working with flashcards. She actually prefers these over toys. YES!!! I swear Addison has already figured out that she can delay bedtime if she continues to point to yet another book after being read to. I must admit, sometimes it works.
She’s a shoe girl! It seems that Addison’s walking skills brought upon this new interest in shoes. Her favorite are a cute pair of metallic pink sneakers. She loves these things so much that several times a day, she will go into her closet, ramble in her shoe basket, and retrieve the matching left and right shoe. Yes, she’s already appreciating the wonder of shoes. MY GIRL indeed!!! The 2nd runner-up shoe favorite is a pair of bright pink faux Uggs boots. For some reason, she only grabs these at night. Maybe that’s because they look so comfortable, warm and toasty.

Addison has telephone-itis! Could somebody please explain to me why toddlers love telephones so much? We’ve tried giving her play phones, but NO! It must be a real working phone. It’s gotten to the point that when the phone rings, Addison stops whatever she’s doing as if the call might be for her! What is this? When I allow her to “talk” on the phone (BTW, only grandparents and aunts think this is cute), she’ll say “Hi” a couple of times, press any and all buttons repeatedly, and wait to say “Bye-Bye” only AFTER the call has ended and the person on the opposite end has hung up. The cell phone is her favorite. Addison tilts her head and cradles the phone between her head and ear as though she’s engaged in a very private conversation or conducting business. Aaron just shakes his head and says, “I’m going to have to get her a head set.”
Even while trying on a new hat and mittens set, Addison holds on to her phone!

Addison is in Control! I guess I should have posted months ago of how/why Aaron put in a bid on Ebay for Addison’s very own remote control. In a nutshell, Addison’s first obsession was with remote controls. We gave her several old remotes we had lying around the house, but Addison didn’t like these. We did a little consumer choice test and found that she clearly preferred the peanut! No old outdated square remote controls for her. Aaron thought it would be a good idea for her to have her own remote (without batteries) so he ordered one on Ebay. She continues to think that she’s changing the channels with her remote control. She hasn’t figured out that I’m actually standing behind her controlling the television with MY remote. Score one for the mom! Or maybe two for the toddler who has her parents so smitten that we would even go to these lengths just to see her smile.

Addison the Social Butterfly (or Biker Chick?) Addison’s day care provider has told me that Addison seems to attract the attention of the other five children she watches. She added that all the little toddler boys seem to like her. However, Miss Addison clearly prefers one boy over the other two (and he happens to be the cutest and sweetest of the three J). One of these boys is a little on the chubby side and has a rugged look for a toddler. I jokingly commented to Addison’s babysitter that I didn’t want Addison sneaking out to ride on the back of his motorcycle. Her sitter responded, “You don’t have to worry about that, he’ll be riding on the back of Addison’s motorcycle!”

Addison’s Favorite Word? APPLE. Show her a picture of an apple, and she will proudly say APPLE! Show her a picture of a pumpkin and she will proudly say APPLE! Show her a picture of anything else that she doesn’t know the word for and she will say…you guessed it APPLE. Other favorite words besides momma and daddy are doggie, woof, owl, bottle, hi, bye, baby, thank-you, and ice cream.

Is One the New Two? I posed this question on one of the yahoo groups because I’m seeing some behaviors I didn’t expect to see until Addison turned two. She’s doing some hitting, having short temper tantrums when she doesn’t get her way, has been unfastening her diaper for months now, is very independent, is beginning to show preference for clothes and shoes, and handles herself very well in social situations. Maybe I didn’t realize just how quickly babies begin to act like toddlers. Sometimes I watch Addison moving around the house and wonder, “Where is that little baby we brought home almost a year ago?”

So that’s what Miss Addison has been up to lately. I will try to post more often. Needless to say, we’re busy being parents and having fun watching Addison blossom.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

She's a Beach Girl!

After a night of driving six hours, checking into our hotel, getting a young toddler settled into an unfamiliar crib, and sneaking out the hotel's pool towels (of course we didn't think to pack our own), we were ready to head to the beach. Armed with oh so cute swim attire, Miss Addison finally had her beach debut.

The verdict...She loved it and took 1st prize in the swimsuit competition. This babe wasted no time digging her beach ready feet deep into the sand

and had a blast building sandcastles with us.

Yes, we have discovered that our sweetie is a beach girl. After awhile, she tried out her beginning walking skills. That didn't work in the thick sand so she did what she does best when the walking thing gets too complicated --- crawl!

Miss Addison was a little more reserved with her excitement about chillin' on a float navigated by her daddy. She was somewhat unsure about being in what must have felt like a giant bathtub without bounderies. After a couple of minutes of taking in the sights, smells, and sounds, our beach babe relaxed, smiled, and allowed her hands to glide through the salty water. Of course she took this opportunity to sample the water by licking her hands. I guess she was thirsty from the free sand samples! After about fifteen minutes of floating, our beach babe almost dozed off! I think this girl understands what vacations are all about! Watching Addison perched upon that bright pink float in that beautiful blue-green water was such a Kodak moment.

By the second day, Addison had to admit to herself that sand isn't so palatable so instead she devoted her time to sifting, pouring and rubbing sand over her skin. Well it's never too soon to learn the benefits of exfoliating!
During those two days at the beach, I couldn't help but think about how far we've come as a family. My thoughts bounced between wondering what Addison would be doing if she were still in Ethiopia, to wondering what Aaron and I would be doing if we didn't have this darling girl in our life. But there's one thing I know for sure. Florida's beaches are wonderful, but watching Addison discover new things brings pure sunshine into our lives regardless of where we are.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ethiopia Celebrates their Millennium!

Miss Addison took part in a very important celebration last week. She was in the mix celebrating Ethiopia’s Millennium. O.K., so I’m about a week late with this post, but I wanted to share a report from the BBC News in Addis Ababa explaining why Ethiopia is just now celebrating their millennium. People in Ethiopia celebrated the New Year on September 12th. It was the start of the year 2000 and the beginning of millennium celebrations. The reason why they are celebrating more than seven years after the rest of the world is rooted in Ethiopian history and in the beliefs of its own Christian Orthodox Church. Educated Ethiopians live comfortably in two calendars. Prior to September 12, it was still 1999. However, there is the complication caused by the leap years in the two calendars being out of sync. But even if they are quite at home with the Western calendar, Ethiopians show no sign of wanting to abandon their own. Thirteen months is part of their national identity, not to mention allowing their tourist industry to boast that they can offer visitors 13 months of sunshine.
The short 13th month is just one of the tell-tale signs that Ethiopians took their calendar from ancient Egypt. Another is the date of New Year, originally linked to the annual flood which brought new life to the Nile Valley. But none of this explains why the millennium is seven years late; why Ethiopians think that it is 2000 and not 2007 years since the birth of Christ. Conservative culture Ahmed Zakaria, professor of history at Addis Ababa University says the reason is that the Roman Church amended their calculation in 500 AD - adjusting it by seven or eight years. The Patriarch says Ethiopia became isolated from Europe"So we are seven or eight years later than the Roman calculation, so that's the difference that came in." The recalculation of the birth of Christ was just the first of a number of changes in the rest of the world which the Ethiopian church ignored. It is partly because the country was so remote and isolated, but also, says the current patriarch, Abuna Paulos I, because Ethiopian Christians are intensely conservative. "People are not inclined for any reformations, especially when it comes to religion. "They are very much loyal - to change one sentence is a betrayal as far as they are concerned."So because of this, they have been isolated. They have been loyal to their faith and they have maintained their own traditions." So there you have it. Happy Millennium Ethiopia!
Above are photos of Addison celebrating the Millennium at Meskerem - a great Ethiopian restaurant. In the first photo, she's enjoying the attention of two waitresses. In the next one, she's doing what she does best...striking a pose for the camera.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Look Who's One!

Yep, our sweetie is now entering the world of toddler hood. She's trying to walk, eats big girl foods, and is quite chatty when she wants to express her thoughts. Until I became a mother, I never understood why watching your precious baby mature is an odd mixture of excitement and sadness. It's exciting that she's blossoming into this little person and absorbing all that life has to teach her, but it's a little sad when my chubby little bundle wiggles out of my arms to head across the room for the new man in her life...a stuffed Micky Mouse. My little sweetie pie has made it perfectly clear that she never wants to see another jar of level 3 baby food, not when her parents are eating things that smell and look much tastier. I'm quickly reminded that I'm the mother of a one- year- old whenever something is taken from her. Yeah, those 60 second meltdowns are quick reminders that there's a little person in your life who's demanding that her wants and disappointments be known. I grabbed a baby reference book the other day to see if Addison was exhibiting the habits and behaviors expected of a one year old. My girl is the poster child for the typical one-year-old crew. At this stage, it's all about Addison and it's our job (and honor) to provide all the love, security, and nurturing that every child needs and deserves. So off we go into the land of toddler hood! Wish us well.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Aaron's First Father's Day

A proud father holding his happy daughter is such a joyous sight. The highlight of my day is watching the huge sweet smile on Addison's face while saying "Da-da" (or something of a similar tone :-) as Aaron walks through the door in the evening. Addison is usually eating her dinner during Aaron's grand entrance, but always stops just long enough to receive a kiss from her favorite guy before turning her attention back to one of her favorite activities...eating. I always knew Aaron would be a wonderful father, but seeing him in action far outweighs my predictions of his capabilities in what I believe is his best role yet - FATHERHOOD. He is Addison's consummate teacher, protector, and co-biggest fan (yeah, mommy and daddy share that position). Oh yeah, he's also Addison's favorite mode of transportation. When Addison sees Aaron putting on that Bjorn carrier---those plump little legs start moving and those arms start waving like she's trying flag down a cab!

The other day, Addison and I were headed out for a stroll around the neighborhood when it started to rain. I casually mentioned that I should push Addison around the house in her stroller since she was already strapped in and eagerly holding on like she was ready for some heavy duty riding. Without missing a beat, Aaron grabbed a towel and started cleaning her dirt packed stroller wheels so that she could enjoy her anticipated stroller ride indoors. By the sounds of her giggles and the size of her smile, Addison loved speeding around the house in her stroller. I don't think she cared that we didn't pass any trees, flowers, or barking dogs. The rain was not interfering with her daily stroller ride. I can only smile when he offers his physical and verbal assistance to our 10- month-old to help her stand, roll a ball, or chew. Yes, Aaron actually demonstrates chewing to our toothless Addison when he feels that she is swallowing her food without gumming it. I love how excited Aaron gets when Addison masters a new skill--ANY skill, rather big or small. Moments like these remind me of why I so wanted Aaron to experience fatherhood. I'm forever grateful to Addison for giving Aaron the honor of receiving these special blessings that come along with the role of "Da-da".

Thursday, May 17, 2007

On Being a Mother

Last Sunday, I celebrated my first Mother’s Day. It was indeed a glorious day. Aaron and I attended church, had brunch, visited with my mom and sister, received numerous happy mother day calls and cards, and had dinner with other families who have or are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia. Although I was beaming all day long, I felt deep sadness for Addison’s birth mother and family. I pray that they have peace in knowing just how much she is loved. I thank Addison’s birth mother from the bottom of my heart. I will forever be grateful to her for giving life to the child that has given our lives new meaning.

I had planned on writing an entry expressing what joy Addison has brought to my life and what motherhood means to me. Simply stated, the joy I’ve experienced being a mother has far exceeded my expectations. It’s now days past Mother’s Day and after 11:00 PM. I’m just too sleepy to put my own thoughts into words…so I’ll borrow someone else’s. Below is a poem that succinctly expresses how being a new mother changes your life.

Becoming a Mother Changes You

Motherhood is an experience
that opens your eyes and your heart
to exactly how magnificent and amazing the gift of life is.

When you become a mother,
it is amazing how your feelings,
viewpoints, goals, and priorities change.
With one look into your little baby’s eyes,
you understand what things
are truly important in this life.

Author ~ Donna Newman

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Another Milestone in our Adoption Process

March 26, 2007 was an incredible day. This is the day that Addison’s adoption was finalized in the USA. Although the Ethiopian courts recognized our adoption of Addison as final on January 9th of this year, the law required us to readopt her here in America in order for her to have full citizenship. This final step involved more frustration and detailed paperwork, which is why most people sometimes pay thousands of dollars to adoption attorneys to complete the essential forms. Furthermore, the forms for re-adoption are not readily available to the general public which leaves us non-attorney people scrambling around in preparation for finalizing an adoption that we’ve already worked so hard for. However, we decided that Aaron (the most organized person I know) could handle the paperwork without the assistance of an adoption lawyer.

I should add that in the middle of compiling these forms, I had to make a decision about Addison's middle name. I had been waivering between several beautiful Ethiopian names for months! One afternoon of serious and tiring paperchasing, Aaron came home to get my signature on a document. It occurred to me that if I wanted my child to have a middle name, I had to make a decision quickly to avoid having to fill out more paperwork to add a middle name later. No more procrastinating! I pulled out my little worn sheet of paper with about twelve of my favorite Ethiopian names, and read each name on the list to Aaron. Actually, I didn't even get through the entire list because Aaron stopped me when I read my top pick --- MERON. The Amharic meaning for Meron is "Gift from God." A perfect name for a little girl who is such a blessing to our family. And so it is --- Addison Meron.

On the morning of our court date, the judge scheduled to hear our case was absent from court. On top of that, we were told that a necessary form was missing from our case file. Aaron then calmly stated that he was going to a different government office to see if he could resolve the matter of the “missing form.” The re-adoption forms seem to vary from county to county and getting someone to tell us with certainty which forms were needed for our county proved next to impossible. For the most part, a good combination of research and guess work went into the preparation for this court date.

Aaron had to do some quick research in legal reference books to “create” this required form. Within the hour, he had done his legal research, created the template for the needed form on an old and slow government computer, and returned to the court room at a good time for the judge to hear our case. The kind judge quickly reviewed our forms, asked us questions to ensure that we had not been caught up in a black market baby ring, and signed off on forms stating that Addison’s adoption was final in the USA. So March 26, 2007 was a special day. We officially became Addison’s parents in the eyes of the US Courts. We are done! No more court dates to claim Addison as our daughter. Intellectually, I understand the importance of these court dates... but in my heart, Addison has been our child from the moment her sweet referral photo appeared on our computer screen. We can now relax from the great paper chase and get on with the pleasures of being a family. What a great feeling!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Reflections of Our Days in Ethiopia

A letter to my daughter

Dear Addison (Biftu),

We just took off on the last leg of our flight to Addis Ababa. I am calm and exited at the same time. I’m looking around at the beautiful Ethiopia Airlines flight crew trying to imagine how you will look in twenty years. Based on what Ryan and Abby have written about your emerging personality, I feel certain that you are a bright, inquisitive, and sweet little girl. As usual, your dad Aaron is as cool as a cucumber, but I can tell that he is so ready to be the very best daddy imaginable.

Your Ethiopian name, Biftu, means "The Dawn" in Amharic. When we return to America, I will name you Addison. I chose the name Addison to honor your birth city (Addis Ababa). Your father and I think it is a strong, but pretty name that sounds nice with Earley. Also, Addis in Amharic means "New," and I think of you as our new beginning. We are considering keeping Biftu as your middle name, or we might select another Ethiopian middle name that holds special meaning for us. We will make that decison after we meet you and get to know your personality. It took us a long time to reach an agreement on what your first name would be. I have been carrying around a list of Ethiopian girl names for months! We think the name Addison is a winner and hope you will like it as well.

Addison, I’m overjoyed because I no longer have to settle for loving the promise of you. I will soon be able to love you live and in person! In less than twelve hours, you’ll be in our arms. I’m so full of joy!

With Infinite Hugs and Kisses,
Pat (Your Mommy)

Day 1/ January 30th
Addison, when your dad and I arrived in Ethiopia, we were driven directly to Gladney’s Care Center where you have been staying for the last several months. I was pleasantly surprised by the nice building and grounds of the Gladney care center. Abby and Ryan agreed to video tape our initial meeting. I must say that pictures of you don’t do you justice. You are such a doll! I just love your large expressive eyes, chubby rosy cheeks, and little dimpled legs. Your eyes squint when you smile. I almost melted when I saw you sitting so high up in Aaron’s arms. You looked up at him as if you had seen him before. You can really look people over. You seemed to be comfortable with both of us right from the start.

What a relief to finally see and hold you. I wasn’t as emotional as I thought I would be. I was thrilled, but not tearful. I think we are both so tired from the long trip that it hasn’t really hit us yet. You will join us for good tomorrow. Since you’re not here with us tonight, I feel kind of weird…like I almost have a daughter, but not quite. I’m looking forward to getting some rest and seeing you first thing in the morning.

We were tired coming off the plane. The airport and baggage area were a little strange. There were plenty of visa stations so no problem there. Gladney representatives Abby and Ryan met us in the post security area. They seem nice and friendly. Tafesse, our driver, is with them and seems to be a cool, nice, young guy. They take us through the streets and city to the care center. Roads are being built and goats and people are walking on the road side. It’s a third world country. At the care center, we met Addison (Biftu). She is so cute and dynamic. She is always looking around and watching people and things. She hears everything too. I held her for the first time and she and I were very comfortable with each other. Afterwards, we had a coffee ceremony with the Tongs, Ryan, Abby, and Belay.

We checked into the Hilton. It was a challenge because the African Union Conference was going on, so there were many dignitaries from other countries in Addis Ababa. The Central African Republic Prime Minister and his entourage nearly ran us over in the Hilton. We had a late lunch at Blue Tops restaurant at 3 PM. When we went back to our room, we unpacked. We decided to leave Addison at the care center so we could set up the hotel room for her. After resting in the hotel room for a few hours, we got up later to eat at the hotel’s pizzeria. Very good pizza! I slept soundly but Pat was in distress all night. Something in the pizza disturbed her stomach. She continued to have major stomach problems the next morning.

Day 2 / January 31st
Addison, when you were delivered to us this morning, you were wearing a traditional Ethiopian outfit. You looked adorable! As one of your caregivers lovingly handed you over to me, I simply could not take my eyes off of your sweet little face. It finally hit me. You were my daughter. I was much more emotional today than yesterday. Maybe it was the way your father said, “There she is!” as your caregiver got out of the van with you. I wasn’t expecting to see you until later. I had no idea that I was getting a “special delivery” so early in the day. I was thinking that we had to go back to the care center to pick you up. What a sweet surprise. It is so obvious how well you have been taken care of. All of the caregivers at the center seem to love you. How could they not? I’m sure you’ll be missed. I learned that the caregivers have nicknamed you, "Beefy" and "Beef Mama." I'm sure your given name "Biftu" and perfectly chubby body made you an easy target for that one!

As we visited one of the orphanages, I couldn’t help but feel sad for the children who are still waiting for forever homes. I met two little girls (ages 2 and 4 ) there who I just wanted to bring home. For a few minutes, I envisioned all “three” of my girls running around the house and park laughing and having fun like all kids should. I must admit that as I sat in the car feeding you, I felt very sad knowing that many of these children will live in an orphanage until they are young adults. I am still amazed by the spirit of many of these children. They were running around playing, singing, and socializing with their peers like they are the happiest kids in the world. I am also touched how the older children wanted to impress us with their ability to speak English and knowledge of Christian songs. I think these children were as curious about me as I was about them. They were all over your father and me, vying for our attention. A couple of the older girls pointed out that we had the same skin. I smiled at them, gave them generous and sincere compliments, and hoped that they understood my admiration of them. I just wish I wasn’t feeling so poorly so I could have interacted more with them. I want to go back to see those kids again. I need to go back.

Well, Miss Addison, You had your first crying spell with us this evening. Around 7:00, you started crying your head off. We were about to call Ryan and Abby for help because we were beginning to think you weren’t well. You were crying so loudly, I just knew that at any moment, someone from the hotel was going to knock on the door, ask for the child, and report us to the Ethiopian authorities as unfit American parents. It hit me during your crying storm that I really didn’t know what I was doing! Yep, I had done my parenting research, spent countless hours on adoption discussion forums, and concluded that I would rely on my instincts and intelligence, but all of this knowledge seemed futile during this time. As soon as your “bright” parents figured out that all you wanted was your next bottle, we breathed a sigh of relief and got back to the business of being happy new parents.

Belay and another caregiver brought Addison to the Hilton. We will take care of her from now on. The Baby Bjorn carrier works great and our diaper bag with supplies was handy. Pat still has traveler’s sickness. She took a couple doses of ciproflaxin that seemed to help. Our first stop was the Kechene Children’s Home. This home had extensive grounds and was fairly nice. The children there were dynamic and lively. They wanted pictures taken and hands held. Some of the older ones spoke good English. A boy named Dawit gave me a gift of a bracelet in the Ethiopian flag colors (read, yellow, and green). The education center had many books on history, math, and physics. Good!

It’s a little sad to see orphan children; some bright eyed and hopeful, some reserved and quiet, and some sullen. Ryan and I left and ate at Rico restaurant. Pat was still weak so she and Addison went back to the hotel. While Tafesse and I waited for my phone to be unlocked (in order to use it in Addis Ababa), we went to Parisienne CafĂ© to sample the local beer, St. George. There were many pretty, well dressed, middle- upper class people there.

Day 3 / February 1st
Dear Addison, today was a sight seeing day. We went to the main museum here in Ethiopia and saw the historical Lucy’s bones. The museum was interesting and informative, but I missed much of the lecture because I had to attend to your needs. Bottle feedings, diaper changes, cuddles, and kisses. What’s a new mother to do? Besides, you are heavy so carrying you around requires a lot of breaks. The Baby Bjorn is so useful, but it is tough on my back. Maybe I’ll try to adjust the straps.

Addison, you are soooo sweet and you attract a lot of attention. Quite a few school aged Ethiopian girls came over to smile at you. These girls look so precious in their school uniforms and seem so well behaved. It’s interesting how being able to attend school is seen as a privilege here. Americans could learn some lessons from the people of this beautiful third world country.

Tafesse is our great driver. What a nice guy he is. The driving here is crazy, crazy, crazy! I’m so glad that Aaron didn’t want to rent a car. I can’t figure out the driving patterns and rules of the road. What’s worst is the lack of seatbelts in most of the cars we have ridden in. I haven’t seen one car seat since I’ve been here. I’m holding onto you so tightly while we ride, I’m afraid I’m going to break your ribs! However, you seem to be taking it all in stride. You’re either bouncing up and down on my lap or leaning to the right or left, depending on how fast we’re traveling and/or how bumpy the road. You are so laid back…unless you’re hungry.

Tafesse took Pat and I to the Milk House restaurant. This is a restaurant with a great view of the city. The meal was good and the best so far. I had beef tips with mild injera and Pat had the chicken and rice. The girls there were cooing at Addison. Everybody says she looks like me. Today was sightseeing day. We went to the Ethiopia National History Museum. Our guide was very loquacious and informative about archeological and political history. We saw Lucy or Dinkinesh, the 3.2 million year bones of early man Australopeticus Africanus. Haile Selasse’s throne was on display.

We then went to the Holy Trinity church where there was a funeral going on. We removed our shoes before entering the church. We were told about the history of the Orthodox Christian church. Haile Selasse, the empress, holy men, and visitors prayed there. Haile Selasse and the empress’ remains were in two huge sarcophaguses in the back of the church. The Old Testament was depicted on the left stained glass, while the New Testament was depicted on the right. The patriots’ burial places were on the church grounds. Belays’ father’s was part of the secret service under Selasse when they were killed. He is buried on the church grounds.

Tafesse then drove us to Eutoto, a high mountain area outside the city.

We passed many streets, neighborhoods, and people on the way. Going up the hill, we saw mostly ladies of all ages carrying eucalyptus tree sood on their backs for firewood. This looked like back breaking work for the ladies. At the mountain top, we had great views of the city below. Later that evening, Tafesse took me to the Beer Garden restaurant which was truly a paradise for a beer aficionado.

Day Four/February 2nd
Well Addison, I’ve passed a mommy test today. I had to change you in the smallest public bathroom I’ve ever seen. I could barely turn around in the tiny stall, but had to whip out the changing pad, hold you still so you wouldn’t hit your head against the hard tiled floor, and keep you from rubbing your little hands and feet against the toilet base. Not to mention how hot it was in that tiny space. And of course, I could not quickly find what I needed in the diaper bag, which I thought I had organized last night. But…I did it! You were smiling again and not giving me that look as if you were thinking, “Don’t you think you need to change me?”

After lunch, we went to visit your orphanage, the Kebebe Tsehay Children’s Home. Now talk about emotional, this is where you spent the first few months of your life. I was able to meet your caregivers, see your crib, and listen to stories about how small you were when you arrived at the orphanage. Aaron and I are so fortunate that we were able to travel here. We actually experienced first hand were you started your journey to be matched with us. This visit to your former orphanage was priceless.

Pat and I were driven to the Cottage restaurant where we had a great meal. We were then taken to the Kebebe Tsehay Children's Home. This is where Addison was first brought to. This home is not as elaborate as Kechene, but the caregivers seem very kind and loving. We saw her crib for the first month of her life. There were approximately 30 children there of various ages. Some were shy and others more interactive. The kids (mostly boys) were playing on a broken merry go round so I went over to help. One of the legs was broken and there were a couple of missing hinges on the seats. Therefore, when the children are sitting on it and it spins at a certain point in the rotation, the heavier section drops to the ground to prevent the spinning. I helped by putting my heavy foot on the base leg to stabilize and allow the merry go around to spin freely. The boys loved it. A caregiver put a girl on one seat to experience it.

We saw the toddlers’ quarters. The boys and girls are in different rooms. They seemed very subdued and quiet. This orphanage seemed like a nurturing place although it was just a little depressing to see so many children in need. There was one bad bully boy who was hitting, and pushing the other kids. The boy was only nine perhaps. The adults didn’t seem to check this. The manager of the home, Sophie, seemed nice. We had room service for dinner: a great Ethiopian meal.

Day Five/ February 3rd
Addison, today we had a wild and exciting day at the Merkato Market. We met up with some fellow Gladney families and made our way through the dusty, busy streets of Addis Ababa. I felt like I was in East India because of the images I’ve seen of the crowded streets and vendors there. The vendors here were kind and friendly. Of course they wanted to impress us with their goods, but they seemed intrigued or at least interested in your father and me. I think that’s because they see so few Black Americans. I know they see even fewer Black Americans with babies strapped to their bodies. A few of the Ethiopian men asked in perfect English, “Are you from America? Which state?” One man smiled when we responded, “Atlanta.” He said, “Oh yes, nice city.” One handsome vendor quickly pulled out a photo album and said proudly, “You know Oprah was here last year. The dress she's wearing in the picture - she bought it from me.”

After we purchased a few items, we lunched at a Chinese restaurant. Chinese food in Ethiopia – interesting. Addison, you are such a good baby. The other Gladney parents frequently commented on your good demeanor and on how comfortable we appear to be with each other. I felt like such a proud mother! You and I were really tired by the end of the day. We had a quiet evening while your dad went to an Ethiopian wedding.

Addison has a healthy appetite. She drinks 8 oz. of formula in the morning, which usually holds her during morning excursions. We always carry an 8 oz and a 4 oz bottle when we are going out for the morning. Today, Josef was our driver who took us, the Busschers (Doug and Shannan) to the Merkato Market. The Tongs were there also. Pat brought a little dress for Addison and a scarf for a colleague. There was much motion and bustling in the market. This reminds me of the Thai markets with many vendors in long rows. Afterwards, we went to a Chinese restaurant. The food was just O.K. I got a chance to talk with Joseph Tong (the Tong’s 9-year-old). He’s a very intelligent and inquisitive boy. Pat and Addison decided to relax in the hotel room that night. Later at 5:30, Tafesse invited/took me to the wedding of his cousin. They had all kinds of foods, meats, etc. There was dancing, chanting, singing, etc. There were crazy uncles yelling things out and the crowd responding which resulted in much laughter and fun. Josef drove me to the groom’s house, which was a beautiful, stylish, concrete house. The house had high ceilings, hardwood floors, two satellite dishes, big screen TVs, nice couches, bidets and special shower facilities. The DJ was playing oldies and whatever you would hear at a Black American affair. I noticed that all upper class Ethiopians speak good English.

Today was a great day. We visited the Dreamland Resort. Absolutely beautiful! We had a wonderful dinner, saw a beautiful crater lake, and watched young Ethiopian couples impress their dates. You and Nicholas (Doug and Shannon’s son) were such good troopers. Cutie pie Nicholas has the prettiest eyes with the longest lashes I’ve ever seen on a boy!

It is really beginning to sink in that we are now a family of three. It feels so natural being your mother. I often catch myself just smiling at you for no particular reason. I hope you’re not getting tired of me kissing you. Aaron is going to be a doting father. He is becoming more comfortable with you everyday. I like the way your eyes follow him around the hotel room. Something tells me that you’re going to have him so wrapped around your cute little fingers.

We think we are in a groove with Addison’s eating habits. We just have to keep the bottles ready to go. She has a certain cry when she is hungry. She gives a huff and a puff and a cry explosion. Sounds like the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz. Pat and I ate in the Koffa Restaurant at the hotel. The servers dote on Addison. They take and carry her, show her to the other servers, and coo to her. She is a charmer.

Our only event today was the sunset excursion out of town to a crater lake at the Dreamland resort. The road was a bit daunting, mostly highway with two lanes. People walk and park in one of the lanes from time to time. This is a bit dangerous. People are used to close calls here. The Dreamland place has an excellent view on the hillside of a crater lake. It is greater than 200 feet deep at the center.

The food was good but something bothered my stomach. When we returned to Addis Ababa, it was dark. There was a huge traffic jam because of the custom stops. The truck drivers are in all lanes and have to shift over to the right to be inspected. This causes the traffic jams. I took ciproflaxin to handle my upset stomach.

Day7/February 5th
Although I’m enjoying your birth country, I am so ready to go home. I just want to get my “real” life started with you. We purchased a few more souvenirs, had lunch with the entire group (didn’t enjoy this lunch), and then had a quick dinner at Kaldis (Ethiopia’s Starbucks). I like the fact that Kaldis is the great coffee house here, since Starbucks does not pay the Ethiopian coffee farmers a fair amount for their coffee beans. Go Kaldis! But I wonder if the owner of Kaldis is any kinder to the Ethiopian coffee farmers. Hum…I need to research this.

We woke up, had a meager banana bread breakfast, and were driven to the souvenir shops in the Post Office area or Ras Desta Damteur Street. These shops are not as crowded as the other market, although there is still plenty to choose from. We bought some silver, necklaces, axum crosses, and a wooden stool. We then had lunch with the whole group (Ryan, Abby, Belay, Doug, Shannon, their son Nico, Pat, Addison, myself, and another driver whose name I still don’t know. It was nice meal. The discussion turned to the Fistule Hospital. Most of the group had never heard of it. Pat told the group about the hospital and its services to help women whose internal organs have been damaged during childbirth. She is hoping to visit it while we are here. Later that evening, Pat, Addison and I went to Kaldis. Kaldis is a Starbucks clone chain store here. It has a symbol, color scheme, and coffee drinks similar to Starbucks. The place was packed with young, well dressed people eating, drinking coffee, eating desserts, and just hanging. We particularly enjoyed the avocado, strawberry, layered smoothie, although it was a bit warm (not cold).

Day 8/February 6th
Addison, it was great going back to Gladney’s care center, your previous home. We were able to deliver the humanitarian gifts which we were so happy to do. The young girls at the carecenter are young, but very poised and nurturing. I hope they enjoy the small tokens I left for them. I enjoyed talking with the caregivers. I find comfort in knowing that you were so well cared for there. One of the caregivers was deaf. I was especially drawn to her gentleness and grateful for her attentiveness to you. This caretaker knitted you a hat, which I will save in your keepsake box.

While we were at the care center, I held and played with another beautiful baby girl named Helen. I don't think you liked that. You looked a little sad after I picked her up and held her for a second time. You gave me a look as though you were wondering, “You’re my mommy, why are you giving her so much attention?” You don’t have to worry sweetheart, there’s no other baby in the whole world that I would prefer over you. I think it’s interesting that the caregivers like to point out that the babies, “look like us.” It’s a great feeling adopting from an African country. It’s probably a great feeling adopting from anywhere.

We went back to the care center for the first time since picking up Addison. We brought gifts for the caregivers and humanitarian aid in a big luggage. Four of the caregivers were there. They are always so nice. They brightened when they saw “Biftu” again. Someone had already taken Addison’s bed. There were cute babies there. Helen was a darling, dark-haired, dimpled girl baby. There was a handsome boy there as well. We had another coffee ceremony, talked more, and left. Afterwards, we went to a new restaurant with the best view of the city so far and ate great food. While there, we met another couple who were there to adopt their 9 or 10-year old daughter. They live in New York. Once we got back to the hotel, we walked the Hilton grounds. There were souvenir shops, a miniature golf course, volley ball court, tennis court, work-out room, and indoor squash. I wore the Baby Bjorn for the first time. Addison really enjoyed riding up high and looking out. For dinner, we went to the traditional Ethiopian restaurant Fasika. The place was constructed and decorated like a traditional Ethiopian cottage. There were murals on the ceilings and paintings on the walls. We sat on wood traditional chairs around the basket food tray. We sampled many traditional Ethiopian dishes and the Tej honeywine. It was all delicious. While we ate, the performers executed their routine. They danced with styles from various Ethiopian tribes. The singer and band played with much gusto. The dancers were amazing with their quick head movements. The female dancer went into the crowd to engage the patrons to dance. Each on in our party did a little neck and shoulder movement dance. The place was full of mostly Europeans, Nigerians, and some Ethiopians.

Day 9/ February 7th
Today was Embassy Day! I felt a little nervous this morning and was not in the best mood. We went to the American Embassy, answered a couple of questions regarding our knowledge of your past, and were congratulated on our adoption of you. It was over just like that. After months of filling out applications, gathering documents, waiting for a referral, waiting for a travel date, making travel arrangements, having our faith tested, etc., the final adoption step before leaving Ethiopia was over in just a matter of minutes. Ethiopia was entrusting us with one of their cherished babies. We feel honored. You were right there with us, witnessing everything. As usual, you were well behaved and just went with the flow. You’re such a sweetheart.

Today was embassy day. We were anxious, but relaxed. We leisurely got dressed in time for lunch at the Cottage Restaurant. I had an exaggerated impression of the quality and variety of the food there. It was not as good as I remembered.
The American Embassy was heavily fortified. There where two stages of searches and bag checks. No cell phones or palm pilots were allowed inside. We waited in the room below, while Belay went upstairs to do the final paperwork. Upstairs was hot, while downstairs was nice and cool with a TV and many chairs. After approximately 30 minutes, they called for us to go upstairs. The American woman asked about our correct signatures, asked us to raise our hand and confirm that we would tell the truth, and then asked us about our knowledge of the circumstances regarding Addison’s orphan status. Within five minutes, we were done. Pat and I kissed and then left with Belay. We had our celebratory dinner at the Milk House on the 10th floor of this building. Once again, my memory of the greatness of this food was exaggerated. We won’t be going there again. Thursday and Friday should be nice days. Pat and I are ready to go home. We want to get normalcy and our life started with Addison. Pat and I joke that we are no longer the darling new couple and child in Ethiopia. A new family arrived Tuesday from New York so we are getting less time with our favorite driver Tafasse. Ces’t la Vie!

Day 10/ February 8th
Addison, I slept late this morning because you woke up in the wee hours of the morning and had difficulty going back to sleep. The Muslim call to prayer (and the loud dog barking that accompanies the chant) tends to wake you and me around 5:30AM, while your dad sleeps right through it. I don’t think he has ever been awakened by this daily occurrence, which I find amazing! Why? Because it’s loud and continuous for at least 30 minutes! Anyway, I was able to catch up on some much needed sleep after your dad woke up and kept you occupied for a couple of hours. We had a good lunch, visited an interesting museum, and relaxed the rest of the evening. Ethiopia is great, but I’m so ready to get back to Atlanta with hubby and baby in tow.

Pat was up early with the baby, I was still asleep. When I got up we cuddled with the baby and I played with her for a couple of hours while pat caught up with sleep. We started our day late at 11:00AM after we dressed and got Addison ready. We went to Ricos. My second visit, Pat’s first. The food was good. I had lamb and Pat had a huge calzone. Afterwards, we went to the Ansi gallery. This is a contemporary art gallery near the French Embassy. This gallery is on nice property and belonged to the teacher of Emperor Meleniks’ son. It was built in the 18th century. There were abstract works here, sculptures, clay figures, etc. We met the artist who was preparing for a big show tomorrow. Later that evening, we dined at the Makush Gallery, which had contemporary but less abstract art.

Day 11/February 9th
We’re going home today! We got your Ethiopian passport and Visa. You look like such a world traveler with your cute little round head starring out of the passport book. Your father’s smile was huge when he saw your passport. He was so proud that his little girl has a document that he holds near and dear to his heart…a passport! Have passport, will travel!

The Ethiopian airport was crowded! At first I though that all of these people were there for departing flights, but it was explained to us that the majority of the crowd was there to send off love ones leaving for international flights. We quickly said our goodbyes to our driver and new friend Tafesse, and we were on our way. Well…not so fast. Your father and I were “randomly” selected for a security check, and then had to stand in line for what seemed like an hour before we even reached the ticket agent. Normally, this would have really annoyed me. Now, although it wasn’t pleasant, I had my precious cargo-YOU- which made minor inconveniences seem just that…MINOR!

We got up at the normal time and felt a little giddy. This was our last day in Ethiopia. We got to go back home with little Addison and get our life started. Tafesse took us on a little excursion to the neighborhood where he grew up. His mother owned successful doughnut shops before the Communist Durge took them away. Under the communist rule, people were only allowed one means of income.

We drove and saw the local “Home Depot” hardware store. At 12:30 PM, we had the final farewell lunch with the whole group at Costellis, a fine, classic Italian restaurant. Afterwards, we said our final goodbyes to Abby, Ryan, and Belay. I was a little annoyed because we had thank you tokens and cards for both, but we left them at the hotel because we thought we would see everyone later. Belay said he doesn’t like to go the airport anymore because the goodbyes are hard there.

We got to go back to the hotel to relax and pack for our 6:30 exit. Fortunately, the Hilton allowed us late checkout. They should have because we never did get the suite they had promised us when we made the reservations. As we were sitting in the lobby, we saw a guy who looked very similar to me. We had a similar gait were close in height, skin color, etc. Pat went over to him and remarked upon our similarities. He was pleasant and agreed about the similarities. We took a picture of us together. It’s funny because this guy actually lives in Atlanta!

The Hilton is very strict. When they see someone leaving with luggage they get worried and stop you demanding a “check out ticket”? So I had to leave my luggage with the concierge and go to the counter to check out. I had wanted to go to the curb where Pat was waiting. Fortunately, my Hilton points covered the room, so we just had to pay for meals which came to approximately 900 birr over the two weeks. We left along with the Busschers for the airport. We traveled in a convoy - people in one car, luggage in the other Toyota Landcruiser. The airport was a bit busy with many people trying to leave. The parking lot was not well lit. We felt a bit rushed but we said our goodbyes to our drivers Tafesse, Eyasuf, and Josef who had helped us with our luggage to a certain point. The line to Ethiopian Air was not too long-maybe 40 people, but it moved slowly. When to got the front of the line, we checked our four pieces of luggage. What a relief! Now we just had our carry-ons and Addison. The form at the immigration exit took a bit to fill out. Pat had to change Addison while I was in line. Finally we got through and into the terminal. We waited near our gates with the Busschers. At some point, we left to go to the Ethiopian Air first class/business class lounge. This was nice. Free food, drinks, TV, chairs/couches. This lounge was very comfortable. We stayed there and relaxed until it was almost time to board. After we boarded, we saw that our seats where on the first rows of the plane (seat 1D and 1F). Business class is the way to go. We kept Addison in her carrier until after the take off. Hurrah! We were on our way home. The flight was very pleasant. Addison was very composed. We gave her a bottle on take off and landing to depressurize her ears. The bassinet fastened to three holes in the bulkhead in front of our sears. She seemed to enjoy the bassinet. Pat and I had meals mostly in peace. The business class meals were food, and we had plenty of beverages and snacks. I can see why people pay extra. When we were in Rome for refueling, there seemed to be a disagreement/disturbance with the Roman cleanup workers, refuel staff, and Ethiopian Air attendants. They seemed tensed. After awhile, they resolved the issue and we took off again. We mostly read and watched movies. Addison remained composed, only needing diaper changes and bottles. Our idea of keeping bottle inserts pre-filled with formula was great. It was very convenient to make a bottle. Addison is not picky. Room temperature formula is fine with her. Our landing in Dulles was fine. It was a clear, cold morning. Getting trough customs was no problem. They seem to give a family with adopted babies a smooth passage.

Day 12, February 10th
Addison, I am so impressed with you. We flew for over twenty hours and you cried only once (and just for a couple of minutes). Sweet girl, you rested peacefully in the bassinet, looked around curiously when awake, and proved to be a superb infant traveler. A woman, who was seated behind me, asked if you were always that good. I was so happy to be able to truthfully respond, “Yes she is!” Oh yeah, in one of my earlier diary entries, I wrote about changing a diaper in a tiny public bathroom. That was before I was forced to change a diaper in an airplane’s lavatory…with a line of people waiting to use the facilities. Now that takes skills! I'm an official member of the “Moms Do What They Have to do Club.”

When we landed in Washington D.C. for our three hour layover, you were able to meet your paternal grandparents. Of course you smiled and charmed them and of course they loved you. It was a great moment. We had to rush to make the last leg of out flight to Atlanta. We were pratically running through the airport in order not to miss our flight. Once we were in our seats, you suddenly began to cry for a few minutes. There was a big, rough-looking redneck guy sitting in front of us. He turned around and rolled his eyes while you were crying. He probably thought you would cry throughout the flight. He didn't know my Addison. We got your bottle ready, you took a couple of sips, and quickly fell asleep. You slept throughout the short flight home. After we landed, that big, rough-looking guy gave you a slight smile. I smiled back at him because I do understand that a crying baby on an airplane is not that pleasant. By 3:00PM, we were driving up our driveway and entering our house as a family of three for the first time. We were home. I showed you your room and let you test out your new crib. You like to run your hand across the various fabrics in your bedding. I think you appreciate nice bedding…yep, you’re my daughter.

Aunt Marilyn and Grandma Birdie came by to meet you within a few hours of our arrival home. They just couldn’t wait until the next day to meet this baby whom they had waited so anxiously for. To be honest with you, I couldn’t wait for them to meet you! Your Aunt Marilyn could barely contain her excitement. She even refers to you as her child -:) After your aunt and grandma left, your Uncle Lonnie came by to catch a glimpse of you. You had already fallen asleep so he didn’t get a chance to experience your charming ways. Your dad was so tired he fell asleep within a few hours after our arrival home. Although we have a bassinet next to our bed, you fell asleep in your new crib in your own room. You look so peaceful and comfortable in your crib. You look like you belong here. Welcome home Addison. Our journey to and from Ethiopia has ended, but our journey as your parents is just beginning. I’m so looking forward to it.

Our layover in Dulles was approx. three hours until we were scheduled for the Delta flight to Atlanta. We called Mom and dad at home and they rushed right to the Dulles terminal to see us and meet Addison. It was great! Addison took right to mom, but Dad was getting over the flu so he did not want to hold her. They seemed enthralled with Addison. We sat, talked, and took some pictures until we had to leave for the flight to Atlanta.

The Delta flight was cramped and the plane was small. We were one of the last people to board and our seats were in the back. Addison was cranky and cried a bit initially. I was slow with the bottle. After a few minutes, she settled in. It was a short hour and forty-five minute flight. After we landed, Pat and I kissed. It was good to be home. We got our luggage-first class luggage comes out first! They put it in a special area too. Nice! We paid for the luggage carrier ($3) and wheel our stuff to the lower level. I left Pat and Addison at the lower level to run to Marta to go get the truck at the College Park
Bell South Parking Lot. I headed back to the airport to pick them up. The whole detour took about 20 minutes. We put Addison in her car seat for the first time. She fits well. We drove home, got out, and opened the house up. Everything was fine and as it should be. Congratulations to us! This journey is finished.