Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Visited Church

We are planning to return to church this coming Sunday, so Annaliese and I visited our church building this afternoon to help her be able to recognize it on Sunday morning. She gets so excited about new places and enjoyed looking around – walking across the stage, peeking in the classrooms, and meeting some of the staff. Hopefully this will help Sunday morning to be less overwhelming for her.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Daddy Back to Work

Today was our first day at home without daddy since he went back to work. Annaliese definitely missed him, but she did well despite the change. So proud of her! This brings us one step closer to our typical routine : )

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Soccer Game

This afternoon we attended our first public event! It was so nice to be out and enjoy family at Josh’s soccer game, but it was very cold!! Annaliese did not seem to think much of the cold, but she and Caleb played together, which helped to warm her up : )
Then we went to my sister’s house where we met the hamster and the dog for the first time. Annaliese was scared of both of them, though!
Finally, the boys gave me & Annaliese a gift - a necklace with a heart charm for each of us. They had thought of this on their own and bought them with their own money! They are such thoughtful kids!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Painting & Progress with Kizzie

Today we painted for the first time – we each painted a pumpkin & a picture, and Annaliese painted a fair amount of her shirt : ) She seemed to really enjoy it!

Bigger news of the day, though, was that Annaliese got Kizzie to play with her! For those of you who do not know Kizzie, she is our ten year old cat who hisses & growls at everybody (even Jonathan & I on occasion)! We knew she would come around, but it has taken her exactly two weeks. She chased Annaliese (who was pulling a string) around the island in the kitchen for about an hour. This was great progress in the DeNeal household!!


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Real World - Here We Come, Ready or Not!

This morning Annaliese made quite a feast for me and her baby dolls in her kitchen. I sat down at her table and began to eat, but she told me “coy,” which means “wait.” She then proceeded to take my hand and pray for the meal : ) What a sweet little girl we have!

Then, this afternoon we made our first trip to the store – out into the real world!! We went to Hobby Lobby and she did not seem overwhelmed by all the “stuff,” but she was definitely curious. She willingly let us put her in the seat of the shopping cart and then put on the seatbelt herself. We will enjoy that for however long it lasts : )

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Prayers at Mealtime

Each day before breakfast, lunch, and supper, we hold hands & say a prayer together as a family. Today at lunch, Annaliese asked to say the prayer : ) On her own, she said “Dear God” and then repeated after mommy to thank Him for our home, our family, and our food. It was absolutely precious!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Craft Time

Today, amongst everything else we did, we worked on our first craft. She continues to be very independent, but willing to ask for help when needed : )

Monday, October 22, 2012

First Doctor's Visit

Today was our first trip to the International Adoption Clinic at Comer Children’s Hospital in Chicago. What a wonderful group of individuals we are blessed to have as part of her medical team – pediatrician, nurse practitioner, social worker, adoption chaplain and others! We were so impressed with their gentleness towards Annaliese and their knowledge of the special considerations involved with international adoption.

We were so proud of Annaliese, as well! She did a great job meeting all the new people, allowing them to complete their assessments, and tolerating the lab work! It was a long day, but a good day.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Meeting More Family

It is so fun how we discover something (or many something’s) new each and every day! This morning it was finding daddy shaving in the bathroom for the first time. It is just so sweet how she watches & soaks it all in. Oh, how we wish we knew what she was thinking!!

This afternoon, Annaliese got to meet Grandpa Dan & Grandma Gloria for the first time. She enjoyed her time with them – showing them her kitchen, her baby dolls, and her bike.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Beginning to Meet Family!

We have now been home for one week and all continues to go well in the DeNeal household!

This morning Annaliese met some family members that she has been hearing about, and seeing pictures of, for weeks - Grandma Jane, Uncle Mike, Aunt Rachel, Josh & Caleb! The visit was relatively short, but she did very well! It was nice to see that she was shy initially, but became more comfortable with everyone as the morning continued.


She especially seemed to enjoy her cousins and has been talking about them all afternoon. The boys did a great job with her and we were very proud of them!!

Finally, this afternoon we went outside to practice riding her bike (with training wheels), which was donated to us from a girl in my mom’s ministry at HCC. After a few adjustments, she was able to reach the pedals and ride the bike! We need to do some work on steering, though : )

 It was a very good day for Annaliese! It was really nice to begin to “open the cocoon” and introduce her to some new people who will have such a big part in her life. We want to say a big “thank you” to all of the family that has been so patient while having to wait to meet her.

Friday, October 19, 2012

More Playing

All continues to go well for the DeNeal family : )

We spent a lot of time today in her room playing with her kitchen set and baby dolls. It is so sweet to see her play so well and with so much joy. What a sweetheart!!


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Another Good Day

Sending a quick note to let you know that we had another good day with Annaliese. Jonathan and I are tired, as life is quite different with a five year old!

Today we took advantage of the beautiful fall weather and tried out her bike with the training wheels (still a little bit too big), the tricycle, and the city park down the street. She seemed to love all the activity!


We then spent the evening indoors with some other activities.
Please continue to pray for our family during this transition. I, for one, am getting a bit stir crazy : )

Monday, October 15, 2012

Doing Well

Hello everyone! I wanted to give a brief update to let everyone know that Annaliese Birtukan is doing well. She seems to be enjoying her new home very much. We are just spending time together as a family and playing all day long : )

Please continue to keep our family in your thoughts & prayers. Hope to be in contact with you soon!
This room is FINALLY getting used : )

Looking at pictures

Pillow fights : )

Helping daddy with breakfast

All smiles : )

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Short post because I have a busy, curious little girl in the airport, but wanted to let you all know WE ARE IN AMERICA!!!!

Introducing the newest U.S. Citizen – Annaliese Birtukan DeNeal  : )

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Home Coming - Questions?

As we prepare to finalize this process and bring our precious daughter home, Jonathan and I would like to thank each and every one of you who has wrapped your arms around us and supported us through this process. We also thought it may be helpful to address a few common questions for what to expect in the coming months from the DeNeal family : )

Can We Meet You at the Airport?
Jonathan and I, after much consideration, are choosing to NOT have a big “welcome home” gathering at the airport. Although we realize that many of you are anxiously waiting to meet Annaliese, we want to be sure to do what is best for her. Often times a big gathering of people she does not know (particularly AFTER being on an airplane for 15+ hours with minimal sleep) can be too overwhelming. Everything that she will experience the moment we arrive in the U.S. will be new to her – new sights, new sounds, new foods, new language, etc. – and a crowd of new people can be a bit too much.

We do, however, look forward to that wonderful greeting from daddy at the airport : )

If Not at the Airport, When Can I Meet Her?
Jonathan and I have been doing a lot to prepare ourselves for how to best help Annaliese when we come home. Although each child is different, we must remember that she has experienced much in her young life – more than many of us can even begin to fathom – just from the simple fact that she spent time away from her birth family and in institutional care, making her eligible to be adopted. Although adoption is a beautiful thing – attempting to help mend wounds and create new families – it is always born from brokenness.

We will need to give Annaliese time to learn things that biological children grow up just knowing – what a family is, that mommy & daddy are people she can trust and depend on to meet her needs, and that she is part of this family forever. Therefore, it is imperative that we spend time doing what the adoption world refers to as “cocooning” – where we pretty well seclude ourselves from the outside world for some time when we first arrive home. This is intended to help her learn that home is a “safe place” and mommy & daddy are her primary caregivers.

When we feel that Annaliese is ready, we will let you know it is a good time for a visit – grandparents, aunts, uncles, & cousins with first dibs : ) When the time is right, we will begin to venture out into the real world as a family – church, visiting family, visiting work, etc.

Thank you, ahead of time, for your understanding on this. We assure you that we will let you meet her as soon as we can!!

How Will I Talk with Her?
We have been amazed how well we are able to communicate with her despite the language barrier that exists. Even though she does not currently speak a great deal of English, she is quite fluent in her native language of Tigrian. Feel free to use gestures and other creative methods to communicate with her, but please remember that speaking louder and more slowly will not help : ) She is a bright young girl, and the English will come. Please be patient with her.

What are Practical Ways I Can Help?
Number one, during all of this time of transition for us and for Annaliese, we continue to covet your prayers. Please never feel like that is all you can do – it is tremendously appreciated. We long to be wonderful parents and help Annaliese grow up to be a Godly, healed young woman.

Number two, when we first come home and are trying to “cocoon,” and likely to be exhausted, meals would be a wonderful help. Some of you have already talked about doing this, so please contact us (e-mail, text, FB) to see what/when is needed if interested. That would be a very practical way to help and we would love it!

Finally, we truly just appreciate everyone being respectful of our wishes to not just stop in on a whim. Please do not take this personally – it is what the adoption community (who has been there, done that) recommends.

What to Expect with our Parenting?
Adoptive parenting tends to look much different than parenting biological children. Please do not assume if we do things differently than you did with your children, that Jonathan and I are not good parents! Of course, we have no experience in this arena, but we have been mentored by many professionals & friends who are adoptive parents, as well as read many resources on appropriate approaches that are not necessarily traditional with biological children.   

Is There Anything Specific I Should Know about Appropriate Adoption Etiquette?
Again, please remember that although adoption is a beautiful thing, it is born out of brokenness. Although this time of transitioning is very exciting for all of us who have been anticipating her arrival for so long, it is a time of grieving many things for her – including loss of birth family, familiar surroundings, native language, familiar foods, etc. Even though we feel immensely blessed to have her join our family, she may not feel that way right away. Please respect her feelings when she may not act happy to be with us or in the U.S. and refrain from telling her that she is “the luckiest girl in the world,” or other things along that line. Try to put yourself in her shoes and consider how you may feel before condemning her behaviors.

Also, please remember that Annaliese has a story of her own that brought her to this point, and it is private, just as your family history, medical information, etc. is yours to share. Please refrain from asking her (or us) questions about her history. Jonathan and I have decided that it is her story to share with whomever and whenever she wants, but please do not ask her. She will share as she feels led when appropriate.

Thanks to each of you for taking time to read this. If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to ask Jonathan or I. We know adoption is new to several of you and we would love to help you learn more : )

Coming Home!!

Annaliese and I are finally scheduled to come home!!

We will be leaving Addis tomorrow night and will arrive in Chicago on Saturday afternoon : ) We are so incredibly excited and ask for your prayers as we spend one more night in Addis and then head home to be with daddy!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Embassy - Cleared and Interviewed

Our prayers have been answered!!!

I received an e-mail this morning from the Embassy that our case was cleared and we were welcome to come with the other AWAA families who were going to their interviews today!! I literally received the e-mail 7 minutes after the bus left, but they were able to get a driver to pick me up and get me there with the other families before my name was called!!

It was a whirlwind of a morning, but we have cleared and I have completed the interview, so Annaliese’s visa will be issued on Friday and we can come home!!!

I have contacted the travel agent to get our tickets changed, but I imagine she is still sleeping : ) Look forward to finding out when we get to board that plane to America. I will keep you all posted.

Thank you so much for your prayers for today!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Prayers Needed

Tomorrow is a big day - birth relative interview, possible Embassy clearance, and scheduling of the Embassy interview for us! Please pray for all to process smoothly, so we can come home : )

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Reminded of His Faithfulness

Not too much to update you all on today, but I wanted to touch base.

Annaliese & I went to church this morning with the other AWAA family that is here. She did very well – sitting quietly with me throughout the service – but she was wide-eyed the entire time. It was her first experience being around more people who spoke English than Amharic and I can only imagine what she was thinking.

It was such a blessing to sit in worship and sing songs that we have sung at church over the past year. For the past several months - while we have been trusting God to build our family – it has not been uncommon for me to get emotional during worship. Now, today, with her sitting next to me, I got to sing some of those same songs of God’s faithfulness & blessing – what a joy!

No matter how hard this journey has been, or will continue to be as we transition to being home, we believe that He is faithful to see us through.

As we enter a new work week, please continue to pray for good news from the Embassy! Annaliese and I are ready to come home to America!!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Continuing to Go Well

Annaliese and I, with our guide & another family, went to the market today. We found her a new dress that I believe she will wear to church tomorrow – I will be sure to get pictures : ) We also found an Ethiopian doll that she loves!

Other than that, we have just been hanging out at the guesthouse. I just cannot get over how busy she is! She is literally going, going, going from 5:50 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., except when she sits down to eat (sometimes even then if I let her)! I think mommy is going to lose some serious weight : )