Glory Be! She's FREE! We have a new Daughter!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Little Miss B

What a true joy this child is!  

When we began this process so many, many months ago, I had visions and dreams of what our new little girl would be like.  I can tell you, she is so much MORE!  She was designed for our family, she fits in so perfectly.  We are honored to continue the raising of this precious gift.  I keep pinching myself to make sure this is all REAL, that she really is HOME!  We are all beyond in love.  It is pure delight watching Abby and Ben interact with their baby sister. They make me PROUD!  

We have watched a very troubled toddler began to transform into a goofy little diva!  The nannies were correct in our update a couple of months ago when they said she likes all things female!

Berhanesh loves jewelry, shoes, and dresses!  She pats her clothes every morning and just smiles.  I think she is enjoying the luxury of so many new things!  She is bonding better than I imagined.  She is sleeping 10 plus hours each night and is beginning to nap well. 

We have continued calling her Berhanesh.  We never thought we would NOT feel comfortable with "Ava Joy" but at this point, it just doesn't feel right.  We may incorporate Ava at some point but for now she is simply Berhanesh!  Her parents named her with such a beautiful name, we want to honor them in her name.  We did find out in Ethiopia that her name is very uncommon and it means, " you are the light."  LOVE IT!

We never dreamed the transition would go as smoothly as it has.  God knew in his perfect wisdom what our family needed.   I am hopeful, but openly realistic, that we may have some of "those" really bad days.   Our prayer is for Jesus to continue guiding us in the parenting of this special girl.  

We have had lots of visitors and yummy meals!  Little Miss B is taking it in stride.  She comes to me and sits with me until she feels comfortable.  I am loving the snuggling!  

We have had two successful doctor's appointments.  We are waiting for all the results to come in.   We are wondering if Ava B is a little closer to 3.  She seems to do things that are too advanced for a young 2.  Yesterday, she really began talking.  How great it was to hear her repeat Abby and say, " I love you, mommy."  Melted my heart to pieces!  

Thank you for the love, support, prayers and meals during our coming home days!  It has been such a huge comfort to know we are loved!

We are still pondering and processing all we experienced in Ethiopia.   Some amazing moments and awakenings occurred in Tulio and I.   The realization of all that expired is still not real--like I am looking into another person's dream.   It is difficult to go on such a journey and not be changed.  When you see such poverty and sadness, how can you remain the same?  I promise to post my daily journal entries with photos in the coming days.   

Monday, July 27, 2009

Yes, We are HOME!

Hi all!  Yes, we are home.  A little weary, but oh so JOYFUL!  We are loving our little family and are enjoying getting to know Berhanesh a little more each day.  Forgive the randomness of this post, it is 4:45 am and I have some jet lag.   I am thankful that everyone else is asleep!

The flights were crueling, connections were barely made but little B did great!  She played and giggled and even went potty on the scary, DIRTY airplane toilet.  

We had a ton of family members and friends welcome us home, we all felt so loved!  Thanks!  

The baby has done GREAT with Abby and Ben, she took to them immediately.  The first night, we all slept in the same room together.  Berhanesh is terrified of our cat, open to the dog.  

She is eating great---we got her to drink milk!   Not a snacker but does have a healthy appetite.  
Will write more later...


Thursday, July 23, 2009

We are Blessed!  Jesus is doing a wonderful work in our daughter's life.  We are turning the corner a little more each day.  She is broken and scared but we are seeing a true personality come forth.  She is feeling better.  Berhanesh still has a terrible cough but hopefully the antiobiotic shots and medications will help her feel better soon!

Let me tell you a little of what we DO know:

She is a BIG eater--we are not sure if this is really how she is or if she is afraid she won't get more.  She continues to eat and eat.  If she sees food, she wants it.  She is slow in eating, chewing each bite completely gone before getting another.

She is tickelish and kinda goofy!  

She hums and sorta grunts.  No real words--she does say "akoo" a lot.  It is not an Amharic word--not sure what she is saying.  She is quiet, again not sure if this will be the norm.  

She had her first bath.  She was unsure (not sure she ever had a bath before) but we showed her how to splash. 

She gave mommy a kiss today.  Shook her head NO when daddy asked.  Daddy is GREAT!!!  He is very patient and gentle with her.  Berhanesh does okay with him in our hotel.  He is allowed to feed her at each meal.  However, when we go out, she wants nothing to do with him.   We are trying to ease in a little more "daddy time" each day.  The progress will be slow and we have to remain patient.  She was very interested in daddy kissing mommy.  You can tell she wants to interact.  

She has a great smile, which was displayed throughout the day.  

She naps great and goes to bed easy.  We are sure this will change once she becomes more familiar with is and her soon-to-be new surroundings.  She is used to being placed in a crib and left to sleep on her own.  We have tried to establish a basic routine at bedtime.  She does love books.  

Berhanesh watched her first Elmo movie.  We played about 6 minutes of a DVD we brought and she was in a trance.  She later saw the Elmo band-aides and had to wear as a sticker!

Today we went to an orphanage called Kids' Care.  I was nervous about how she would do.  She was not at this orphanage so I knew there would not be any memories.  Upon arrival, she saw the gray gate; the same color gate as the transition home where she has been the last 5 1/2 months.  She got excited, smiling and waving her little hands.  When we got off the van (she was in a sling on me) she immediately knew this was different.  She got very close to me, tucking herself farther into the sling.  She put her hand on my chest and rubbed my skin.  This was a great sign to me that she is bonding.  She did not want Tulio out of her sight.  When he walked to far away, she grunted and reached her hand out.  She did not want to touch him but wanted him closer.  We stayed at the orphanage for awhile and she did great.  We got to play with some of the children and participate in a traditional ethiopian coffee ceremony.  We did not drink the coffee, we poured it into a bush.  We did not want to get sick.  The children were beautiful.  I had to turn away several times for fear of "losing it" in front of them.   Major reality check for Tulio and I both.  Our priorities are so silly in comparison to those in this country.  I think I will spend a while processing all I saw today.  Things I cannot even put into words.  

We then ate at a Metro Pizza.  Super yummy, but different.  After lunch, we came back to the guest home and took naps.  Last minute shopping was done after naps.  Shopping is such an experience.  Amazing, hand-crafted items are to be found.  We found several interesting pieces to give to Berhanesh throughout her life.  

As I type, it is 9:00 ET time, my baby is sleeping and Tulio is at a guys' night with the other dads and our fabulous guides.  

ABBY AND BEN---Ava Joy LOVES the photo album we sent to her back in March.  We got to bring it with us from the transition home.  She opens it up to your pictures and looks at you both for a long time.  Today she was rubbing your faces.  I can't promise you she will play with you at first but she will open up and realize how AWESOME you ARE!!!   Mommy and Daddy love and miss you soooooooo much!  Only 2 more nights until we are together!  Can't wait!  Please be good for your Uncle Nano and Aunt Andrea.  

Blessings to you from Ethiopia!

Tulio, Kara and Ava Joy Berhanesh

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

All about Ethiopia!

****  CANNOT UPLOAD PHOTOS---the connections is soooo slow today!  I will try again before I go to bed ****



What an experience this has been.  Let me update from where I left off.  I have so much to share.  Please forgive if I am random in my thoughts.


We went to a traditional Ethiopian dinner on Monday evening that featured great food that Tulio and I both enjoyed.  Then came the dancing…something I have never seen!  I  The moves they made!  WOW!  I think Abby and Ben would have sat with their mouths wide open.  Simply Amazing.


The guest home that we are staying at is wonderful.  Great food, friendly staff.   We only have electricity every other day.  This is why it has been hard to post updates for those of you following at home.  Speaking of which, I miss.  I miss my home, my children, my pets, the smell of America.  We are soaking up as much culture as possible so we may be prepared in future years to tell our precious Berhanesh of her birth land.


Tuesday was an exciting and difficult day.  We shopped in the morning in the post office district.  We bought many items, mostly traditional Ethiopian.  We then headed to lunch at a local cafĂ©.  I was not feeling well but Tulio said the lasagna tasted wonderful.  We are both feeling pretty good but I am dealing with nauseusy off and on throughout most of the day.  It is probably a mixture of the smells that are so strong EVERYWHERE you go and just the fact that I am in Africa.    After lunch we headed to the Transition Home to pick up our children and bring them home with us to the guest home.  Upon arrival, we gave our donations and Tulio and I managed to take photos for seven families and deliver care packages.  To these families, your children are precious.  They were gracious and cuddly.  We prayed special blessings over each one and held them all for awhile.  Thank you for that opportunity!


Do you remember how on Monday, we asked the nannies to check on Berhanesh about her cough and wheezing?  While at the transition home on Tuesday, we got to talk to the head nurse about Berhanesh, she informed us that Berhanesh was taken to the hospital on Monday evening because she was having difficulty breathing.  She was on an IV and oxygen. Apparently she has brionchial ashthma. She was released Tuesday am and brought back to the transition home just before we arrived.  Needless to say, we were very concerned.  It was very hard to understand the nurse because of the obvious language barrier.  The nurse also informed us that Berhanesh would need to be given an antibiotic shot every morning until we leave for home.  She also has 3 oral medications.   At this point; I was spent, just emotionally empty.   A short while later it was time to go back to the guest home.  As soon as we began loading up the van, Berhanesh began to cry.  We totally expected this.  For the entire 30 minutes van ride back to the guest home, she cried and wailed the most pitiful cry.  She said the same word over and over.  Our guide said she was crying out for her nanny.  As you can imagine, Tulio and I were both in tears, joining our daughter in the grieving process.    Our hearts were breaking for her, not knowing exactly all she has lost.   When we got to our room, we pulled out every toy and piece of food we could to help distract and begin to build some trust.  Playing worked for awhile, then the grieving would began again.  A deep, wounded cry…none I have ever seen or heard.  After about an hour, Tulio and I just continued praying over her and we put her in between us and just hugged.  She fought and cried as we told her over and over that we loved her and we would never leave her.  We made a major breakthrough!  Praise the Lord!  I asked God to let me see this child through his eyes and it is by the grace of God that we made it through the day!  We are only asking God for enough strength for one day at a time.  Berhanesh is still very timid and reserved.  She checks out everything and everyone around her.  She is so observant.    She ate well at dinner, sitting in my lap.  She feeds herself and drinks from a regular, big girl cup.  No sippy!  She is also completely potty trained.  We expected accidents but the pull-ups remain dry.  Major bladder control! 


Bedtime was pretty simple. After bathing with a little fuss (she was fascinated with the shower head), we read a story and put her straight to bed in the crib.  She fell asleep immediately. 


It is now Wednesday afternoon and things are progressing slowly, as expected.  We have not fully earned her trust, but we are progressing in the right direction.  Just when she starts feeling comfortable and playing, she begins to close up again.  We are willing to take all the time she needs.  She is a sweet child, she likes to touch us, rubbing our faces or our arm.  She has a soft giggle.  She is warming up to her daddy but prefers mommy.   We had a slow morning, just getting to know each other.   A nurse came this morning and gave her another shot.  The nurse said the shot was very painful.  She cried for a little but let daddy comfort her.  She had scrambled eggs and a chocolate donut (not Shipley's) for breakfast.  Berhanesh is a good eater.  At noon we headed to the US Embassy for our appointment.  I was very scared.  I am not sure of what, but I was scared.  We waited for 2 hours and then our name was called.  Berhanesh is ours, officially!  She did great at the embassy!   2 families had some paperwork issues and have to return tomorrow, please pray for them! 


It is now 5:00 pm, ET time, and Tulio is sleeping and Berhanesh is resting in her bed.  We have not begun to call her Ava yet, it just doesn't feel right.  We are so happy to be here and are thrilled at what the future holds for our daughter.  However, we miss home.  I miss my Abby and my Ben.  My love for you has grown stronger than I ever thought possible through this journey.  I always knew, but never truly grasped the fact that I am one lucky woman.  I have an incredible life partner and three beautiful children.  We love you!  We are going to try and call today!  Pray that we can!


Just a few more days until we are home!  I am excited! 


ABBY----she wore her bow ALL DAY!!!  Never tried taking it off.  She also likes all her babies NAKED!!!  Typical 2 yr. old.


P.S.  Could someone PLEASE bring me a LARGE CHICK-FIL-A Sweet Tea to the airport?  I am having total withdrawl!


Love to you all!


Tulio, Kara and Berhanesh

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Meetcha Day!

What an amazing day! 


We first started out in our guest home, filling out the necessary documents for the embassy appointment on Wednesday.  It was funny—people messing up, including me, because we were so nervous!


We then headed off for lunch at Lucy's.  It was very tasty.  I had ravioli and Tulio had a curry chicken lunch.  He also had a strong Ethiopian beer.  It begin raining during lunch.


Off we were to meet our kids.  I felt giddy, not too nervous!  The roads were bumpy, due to the rain mud was every.   After traveling awhile, on of our guides said, "We are almost there."  That is when I became a bundle of nerves and fear.  The moment had finally come!  After 17 ½ longs months, we were about to be united with our child.  VERY SURREAL moment!


We turned the last corner and there we saw "the sign" that said America World and the big silver gate!  We filed off the van and immediately the children began being brought to us in alphabetical order.  We were next to last.  Out walks little Berhanesh holding a nanny's hand.  I bent down and she WENT TO ME!  She held on to her mommy like it was the most natural moment.  She let me hold her, talking to her softly.  Tulio and were able to trade and he held her for a while.  SHE IS PERFECT!!!!  We walked into the home and sat on the couch, Berhanesh never let go.  We played bubbles and with an inflatable Disney ball (which she loved).  She did not like playdough—maybe the texture.  She ate a couple of Gerber puffs but did not know what to do with the Tic Tac I pulled out.  Berhanesh did not make too much eye contact, which is normal.  About an hour into our visit the nanny came and said it was time for lunch.  She became very clingy at this point.  She did not want to get down, nor did she want to eat.  The nannies spoke to her and she sorta wimpered.  I just held her.  She seemed unhappy while back in "her" room. We could not get her to eat or drink but that was fine.    We went from there to play outside a bit.  She wobbles from side to side, it must be from the HUGE belly.  I mean it is really BIG!    So Precious!  After playing outside, we went back to the couch were we played some more and she ate a few more Gerber puffs.  When it was time to leave, she looked so sad.  She did not cry, just sort of accepted that we were leaving.  I am not sure if she knew we were coming back or we were just another nice white couple who played with her for awhile. 


Tulio and I are over the moon with joy!  The first visit went way better than we ever dreamed.  PLEASE pray for Berhansh today—she had a terrible cough and runny nose.  The doctor is going to take a look at her before we come.  PLEASE pray for her heart to adjust to the huge transition that will occur today.


Tulio and I are feeling fine.


ABBY AND BEN—Ava Joy is Precious—she has the most adorable little laugh.  She raises her eyebrows a lot too.  Her hair is soft and she is DELICIOUS!  We miss you!


I will write later about my massage and our traditional ET dinner!  SUPER FUN and yummy!


Love you all,


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Sunday, July 19, 2009

We are in Ethiopia!

We are safe and in our cozy little room at the guest house.

The flights were long but we did great!

The people were so nice on Ethiopian Airlines, we ate every 3-4 hours!  We were able to sleep some.

Funny stories are forming already!  Tulio got stopped in the Ethiopia airport and our bags were dug through!  He was super nervous.  The man looked mean!

We are taking our pills and heading to bed.  Please say a pray for me--I am taking high altitude medication but since we arrived to the guest home I have been pretty dizzy.

We meet our girl tomorrow!!!!!  WE ARE BEYOND THRILLED.  We will not have electricity tomorrow so I may not be able to post.  Will try and post photos later.

* *Abby and Ben--we miss you all the way up to the moon and back!

Love you all,
Tulio and Kara

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

We are in Charlotte!

We arrived safely!  

The airport is nice--we have a 4 hour layover before heading to Washington DC.

Hoping to upload some pictures of our day later!


Kara & Tulio

Friday, July 17, 2009

Dedicated to Abby and Ben!

I have done a lot of reflecting the last few days and I did not want to miss an opportunity to tell the world (mine is small!) about two great kids: 

To my firstborn:  How do I put into words all my swirling thoughts.  As I have prepared for your sister's arrival, many, many memories have flooded my mind.  I remember preparing for your birth, now I am preparing you for high school.  Where, oh where did the time fly.  You, my precious Abigail are a treasure, a rare find.  You have become a wonderful, godly, young woman that I am PROUD to call my daughter.  There are many times that your daddy and I look at you and cannot believe that YOU are our daughter.  How blessed we are!  Thank you for your constant support over the last 17 months.  You never wavered in your love and encouragement.  I could not have walked this journey without you.  Being the first born, you have been the "guinea pig" for our parenting lessons.  Your dad and I have made many, many mistakes.  I am confident we will make more.  But looking at you now, God must have allowed us to do something right!  You are beautiful inside and out!   I look forward to you interacting with Ava Joy.  The memories that are sure to follow!  Can you believe we get to show Ava Joy all the Disney princesses?  What will she think?  Who will be her favorite?    I can't wait to see my two girls play!   Stay strong while we are away, knowing that we are only a prayer away.  Be helpful but mostly, HAVE FUN!!!  You will be a constant thought in our hearts and minds.

My only son:  Proud, strong, funny, sensitive to others.  That is you Benjamin!  Can you believe that you are going to be a big brother, finally.  You have longed for this day for a long time!   I have many memories of you but the ones that have made me the proudest have occurred over this adoption journey.  Daddy and I knew going into this process, that we were in for a roller coaster ride.  We were aware of the need to support each other.  I was not prepared for the amount of support you have shown.  At times, I would find myself staring at you, wondering how my little boy could have just said such a profound statement.  Do you remember when we had to drive to Austin, again, for more paperwork.  I was crying and acting silly and YOU, my baby, grabbed my hands, looked me in the eyes and spoke these words, "Mom, it is going to be okay, look at me mom.  Just like God rescued Noah after he obeyed, God will rescue Ava.  We have obeyed him and she will be okay."  You reminded me of Daniel in the Lion's Den and various bible stories that spoke of God's saving grace.  I will never forget that trip you and I took, we did have fun, huh.?  Thank you Benjamin, for being sensitive to the Lord. You are great! I love the song you wrote and dedicated to Ava.  I love how you have carried her picture in your pocket for weeks, showing anyone just how proud you are!    Your daddy and I are honored to be your parents and proud of the young man you are turning into.  I want you to know that we will be safe and we will be okay!  You and Abby are in great hands and you will have a blast with your cousins!  Be obedient and helpful.  Remember to brush your teeth and change your underwear!  

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Testing to see if we can post from ETHIOPIA!

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Monday, July 13, 2009

The countdown begins...7 days!

7 days until I hold YOU.   7 days until I can touch your face.  7 days until I can smell your hair.  7 days until I hear your voice.  7 days until I can count your fingers and toes.   7 days until you are joined with us!  

Darling Berhanesh,

We are coming, sweet girl.  Mommy and Daddy are busy packing and finishing last minute projects to welcome you HOME!  Abby and Ben are so excited to FINALLY have you home.  Your big brother, who thinks he is SO BIG, took your picture to VBS this morning.  You were close to him all day, stuffed in his pocket.  He said he just wanted you close!    Abby took special attention today in packing all your new hair bows!  How we have longed for this day to come...hold on a little longer.

We promise to lay all our expectations aside of our future trip to your birth land.  We truly want to experience all God has in store for us.  We are nervous and excited, scared and extremely honored to meet you!  We promise we will relish our time in Ethiopia, savoring every moment in such a beautiful land.  We promise to love you through the pain and grief as you leave all you know, behind.  We promise while you make new memories, we will hold close your time spent in Ethiopia.  We promise to honor and cherish your birth parents and birth family.  We promise to always be honest and answer your questions to the best of our abilities. 

Your mommy and daddy

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

My Forever Family is Coming For Me!

Ava Joy Berhanesh Portilla

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We serve a MIRACLE working God!

Today, we received CONCRETE travel dates!  YEAH!!!

We also received word from our agency that it was nothing less than a MIRACLE that our travel plans came together.  Apparently, MOWA (Ministry of Woman's Affairs-in ET) decided today that they would close their offices for two weeks for essential training.  Our agency staff worked until LATE LAST NIGHT to get all of our documents together so we could travel.  Our agency did not think they could pull it all together, but GOD HAD OTHER PLANS!  Praise the Lord!   Not all families scheduled to travel with us were this fortunate.  My heart is heavy for those that still have to wait.  PLEASE be in prayer for the ET government and for my friends who are still waiting.  I am praying for God's peace to envelope them and hold them steady until they are united with the Ethiopian darlings!   I stand in awe of what the power of prayer accomplishes!  

Plane tickets are bought and luggage is being pulled from the attic as I write this post.

Would you also include our sweet Ava Joy in your prayers this week?  Some VERY BIG changes are about to rock her world and I am believing that God will prepare her for her new family.  Please pray for the bonding process to happen immediately and that she would realize that we are her forever family.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Travel Plans and Packing! OH MY!

What a happy weekend we had!  We spent the ENTIRE July 4th weekend giving our kids' rooms a redo before baby sister comes home!  We painted and cleaned carpets, hung some new curtains.  It was super fun, NOT!!!  We hate painting! is where we are in our travel plans.  We do have tentative travel dates and tickets on hold.  We should know concrete travel plans around the middle of the week.  We have pretty much decided to leave on July 18 and return July 25.  We will fly Ethiopian Airlines out of Dulles.  FOR ALL YOU CRAZY STALKERS OUT THERE--we have a FEROCIOUS dog who will bite you in all the wrong places if you mess w/our home while we are away!  Did that scare you away?  IT SHOULD!  

We have started the long process of packing...

I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS IS REAL!!!!  We really are going...soon!

Ava has a really good friend, Jane-Grace,  in the Transition Home in ET.  Her parents are there now, picking her up to come home.  While there, this precious family will be taking the last set of photos of Ava Joy and delivering her 4th care package.  Today, they met our girl and this is what she said on her blog, 

The children in the TH are beautiful. There were definitely some big babies and I could hear the school aged kids learning. There are some amazing kids there! I recognized the Korson's oldest
daughter and Ava. Kara- she is stunning. You will be blown away when
you see her in person. I look forward to taking pix for all our 4
families tomorrow."

Made me smile!  The really cool thing is Ava's special friend only lives a few hours from Houston.  I am sure there will be many play dates in the future!  You can follow Jane-Grace's story here.

More details to come!


Thursday, July 2, 2009

We have a Butterball!


Is all I can say!

We just received an update from our agency and according to the information, our little Ava Joy has gained 5 pounds in one month!  I called our coordinator just to make sure this information is correct.  Of course, we LOVE the fact that she is flourishing!  Take a look at these photos and decide for yourself:

2 weeks baby!  Mommy and Daddy are coming!  We heart you!