Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bringing Blake with us...

Blakeley and Brecken at Dreamland

We decided early on that we wanted our three year old, Blake to come with us to pick up Brecken. There were a ton of people who were surprised that we would bring our three year old with us to Africa, but we wanted her to feel that she was a major part of this experience...after all, she has heard us talk about the adoption for almost two years. You should also know that Blake is a very active, independent little girl, she loves to see new things and she plays very, very hard. We knew that we would have to help her keep busy while we were traveling, we also knew that traveling would mean long lines, long plane trips, a completely different time zone, different food, different everything...we wanted to try to keep her as comfortable as possible with all these new things. Here are some things we did to help her travel better and to make sure she had everything that she needed:

  • Personal Backpack - we bought a special backpack that we loaded with toys, games, crayons and coloring books. She was able to get into her things when she wanted. I also included some snacks.
  • Changes of clothes - we brought changes of clothes for Blake where ever we went...even in country. These were especially helpful on the flights. We also made sure to change her into her pjs for the really long flight.
  • Baby Wipes - I packed a small package of baby wipes in my bag just in case and we used them all on Blake before we even got to Addis.
  • DVD Player with extra headphones - We brought some of Blake's favorite DVDs with us and it was so, so wonderful when she was up at 5:00 in the morning and we still wanted a bit of sleep.
  • Snacks, Snacks, and more snacks - always good to have with kids
  • Children's Pepto - I was really surprised that we used this, but Blake needed it. I was so happy we had something for her...I know they also make Tums for kids too.
  • TicTacs and stickers - For some reason Blake loves TicTacs and she also loves stickers - these were her special treats when we really needed her to listen or to stay in the very long security and we do not call it's called positive reinforcement.
  • Little Surprises - I completely hit the Target dollar bins for a few months before we left to collect things that Blake would open as a special surprise in Ethiopia. I found these really cool pictures that change color when you added water...this was something that kept her busy and didn't make a huge mess either. I also brought small plastic animals, games, coloring activities and more.
  • Small soccer ball - Andy got this mini soccer ball and he decided to bring it with us, I was so very happy he did because Blake used it in the airport and at the guest house.
  • Car Seat - We got some strange looks when we spoke to Emirates and told them we would be using her car seat on the plane, but that is how we travel...she is much more comfortable in her seat and it helps to keep her in one place. On one flight they even checked it to make sure it was aviation safe. We also were able to use the car seat in the car in Ethiopia. Make sure you have a way to transport your car seat when you are walking through the airport...Andy attaches the car seat to his backpack (I have no idea how) and it works really well.
  • Small item to give the new baby/child - We also had Blake bring a special soft toy to give Brecken. She was so excited to be able to give her new sister something.
  • Grandy - I know that not everyone can bring someone along to help with everything, but my mom was able to come with us and it was a huge help. For example, she was able to watch Blake while we went to the cultural dinner...she would not have done too good at the was loud and we sat for a long time...we enjoyed it, Blake would have probably melted. Thank you mom for coming with us!
Kids things in Addis
  • There is a game place in a mall in Addis that has games and a huge play place - if you are bringing children with you be sure to ask your driver or Ryan about this was nice to be able to have Blake go and get some energy out.
  • I know you can got swimming at the one of the big hotels...we did not do this, but I believe it is an option.
  • We did see some parks...we didn't go to any of them, but they looked pretty cool.
  • The guest house we stayed at had a little grass area that was great for Blake to run and play a bit.
Yes, it was a lot of work (a ton of work!) to have her come with us, and I wasn't always thrilled about that decision while I was on the trip, but I am so glad that we did bring her. She was able to experience a different culture and see things that average three year old does not. She was able to be there when we finally got her sister. I know this is not an option for all families, but I know there are some families who are thinking about bringing youngsters with them to Addis. I know that when we adopt again, we will be bringing our whole family, if at all possible. Hopefully I answered some questions about bringing little ones with you...let me know if you have any more.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Ok...for all you families who are about to is my list of things I am glad we brought with us to Ethiopia:
  • Baby Sling - I am a big advocate for baby wearing. I believe it helps to facilitate bonding and helps the little one to feel safe and secure. We put Brecken in the sling while we were eating breakfast at the guest house or when we were walking the grounds. It was also useful for when she was having a hard time falling asleep. I would put her in the sling and walk and rock and she would be sound asleep in no time at all. The sling was the only way to do it at the airport too.
  • Cipro - before we left we got a prescription for Cipro from our Dr. Cipro is a very strong antibiotic. We started not feeling too great the last few days of our trip so we started the Cipro and in 24 hours we were doing much, much better.
  • Formula dispenser - we got this plastic little formula dispenser from Walmart. It holds enough for 3 bottles...this was so useful while we were on the go. We were also using the bottles with the disposable drop-ins...they were great, but we didn't bring enough and ended up having to wash and re-use a few of them on the way home. We only brought 50...we should have brought more.
  • Granola Bars, Snacks and Gum - Normally when I travel internationally I bring snacks and they remain untouched in the bottom of my bag...this was not the situation on this trip. For whatever reason, we ate all the snacks we brought. We would wake up late at night was nice to have something we could snack on in the room...we brought some GORP with us and it was so great to have that to snack on.
  • ipod - At the guest house where we stayed they had ipod docks for each room. We love music and there is usually music playing at our house all the time...we loved being able to listen to our ipods when we were just hanging out. This was one of our favorites to listen to.
  • Large and small zip-lock bags - Having spare bags around was amazing for packing soiled clothes in...we were not able to wash some clothes that Brecken soiled right before we left so it was nice to be able to just throw them into a zip lock bag and not worry about them spoiling the other clothes. We were also able to use the small zip lock bags to store pre-measured formula for the trip home.
  • Portable DVD player - We have an amazing portable DVD player that we brought with us so Blake could watch some DVDs when we needed some downtime. This was also so great to have when we couldn't sleep. Don't forget the plug converter
Things I wish I would have brought:
  • Water bottle - I realized at the airport that I did not bring a water bottle with me...I would have really liked to have that with me so I could just fill it up with fresh water and go.
  • 5-10 grocery store bags - These would have been nice to seal the really smelly diapers...especially since we changed Brecken's formula to the formula that we brought with us her diapers were ripe. It would be nice to be able to bag those super stinky diapers so the smell would not permeate the room.
Places to go:

  • Makush - Italian restaurant with amazing Ethiopian art that you can purchase to bring home. They had some really cool pieces. The food was pretty good too.
  • Family Restaurant - This place had good lemonade - Blake was craving lemonade...she was so excited when this place had some.
  • Something Dragon Chinese - The hottest Hot and Sour soup ever! We love spicy food but this was an entirely different level of spiciness.
  • Arabian food - I can't remember the name of this place but their hummus was oh so very good...I could have eaten that the entire trip.
  • Kaldis Coffee - Good lattes...almost like Starbucks
We stayed at the Ethiopian Guest Home...this place was great! The staff was absolutely wonderful, the food was good, and the rooms were very comfortable. It is about 40 minutes away from the Gladney Baby House and that was the only bummer part about it. We stayed in the family suite and it was so great.

We flew Emirates Air...this is the most amazing airline. They had trays and tray of toys that they gave to the kids, baby food and wipes and a small toy for the baby, and pretty darn good airplane food. Not to mention that we got bumped up to Business class from Addis to Dubai. If you have to opportunity to fly Emirates...they are great!!!

We also used Susan Parr Travel. They were so great and such a huge stress reliever. It was so nice to know they were there to help us if we needed it. I would recommend using them! Amazing!

Friday, January 16, 2009

We are back and slowly adjusting. Ethiopia was absolutely amazing, but we are so glad to be back and growing as a new family. We arrived in Addis on January 3rd. We were able to drop our things off at our guest house and then we were able to go meet Brecken at the Gladney foster care house...Ryan brought Brecken down to us and she just stared and tears or anything. She just watched us. I started to rock her and she almost instantly fell asleep. We then went back to the guest house to just to start getting to know each other. She woke us when we got back to the house and then the tears started to flow. We tried it all and nothing would comfort her. She finally went to sleep and was out for the night. When she woke up that next morning she was all was an amazing difference. We were able to check her out a bit more this morning...she was just so healthy! The care givers at the foster care center had taken such great care of her.
She was definitely more comfortable around us the second day. She loves to snuggle and just be held. We brought the sling with us to carry her and it was one of the best things we brought. She would just snuggle in and hangout.
Here is a little slide show of our trip.

I'm not really going to do a day by day breakdown of our brain is still a little shot from lack of sleep and jet lag...I will post some of my favorite things/recommendations from our experience later on.

PS - If you have your referral, I may have some pictures of your little me a picture of your baby and I will look through my photos to see if I have something for you!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Home Again Home Again!

This is just a quick little post to say hello! We have been home since late on Monday night...Ethiopia was amazing. We are still all adjusting to the time change. Brecken is so amazing. She is sweet, spunky and so healthy. I still cannot believe that we are home with her finally!

I will post more about our trip later...we are lacking sleep and just trying to relax and enjoy our new daughter for a while. Can't wait to tell you about our trip!!!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Well...we are in the JFK airport in New York...the first flight from Denver to JFK was great...very smooth and we were able to relax and watch some movies and just take a bit of a break. We have been in the JFK airport since 4:00 this afternoon...our flight does not leave here until 11:00PM...this has been a very long layover...especially with a three year old. We all ready wish we would have packed Blake a few more extra changes of clothes in our carry-on...we will be sure to have enough on the way back.
Our next stop is Dubai...we will be staying overnight at the Dubai airport until our flight leaves for Ethiopia on the 3rd. I am very much looking forward to taking a shower and getting some sleep before our last flight to Addis. My mom just said to me...I can't believe that once we are in Dubai we are only 4 hours away from very true...with each flight we are getting closer and closer to her...finally.