No pictures for today's post, but I will share about Friday. This was an exciting morning because we were reunited with our court buddies!!!! The good news came for some of them after we had already left. They were still able to make it for the same embassy date. They had less notice than we did! WOW. One family stayed with us at Morning Coffee while the others stayed at Jemimah... two very different guest houses. We were just so extremely blessed to have had the opportunity to stay with Birtukan twice. She is my BFF in Ethiopia!!!! After breakfast we loaded up the bus and picked up the other families then headed to the orphanage. It was a little awkward because they were video taping for the families lifebooks. We waited outside for a little bit and then snuck around to go pick up our girl. To get out of the way we headed outside and enjoyed some of the kids singing for us. It was wonderful. We were able to record some of it, but I wish we would have gotten much more. I wish we could have recorded more of the language and more of the people while we were there. That is one thing I regret was my failure to take more pictures and record more video. I had every intention to do more of this during this trip, but failed miserably. Nevertheless, we will treasure what we did get and most of it is forever etched into my memory. We will go back though. We were even talking about that today. Andrea has such a passion for it. It is one of her greatest desires. I may have a little missionary on my hands!!!! After we spent the morning with Olivia and enjoying the kids, we said goodbye for our last time at the orphanage. The next time we go see her, we will be picking her up FOR GOOD!!! It felt so good saying goodbye this time. I know that sounds weird, but I wasn't sad at all and I was ready to go. There was much in store for us in the next couple of days. We would be making a trip of a lifetime and meeting the young woman who brought our daughter into this world. We were going to see where she lived for the first months of her life and a part of me knew that this was going to be BIG (and it was). So we left the gates childless for the last time and headed to the Topview restaurant. This was like a 4 start restaurant and we ate for less than $20. CRAZY! We then spent the afternoon shopping. I knew exactly what I wanted and had missed during our first trip. I sent Andy one way and I went the other. We both did some "price negotiating" and loaded up our bags. Abel is a task master on the shopping trips. You MUST be quick. So, if you are yet to travel, make a list and go quickly. There are only a couple of things that I wish I would have gotten, but I know that I am going back and will get them in the future. Plus, other people will be traveling soon. I love to shop over there. Fun times (poor Andy)! If Andrea is going to go with me, she needs to learn how to shop quickly. She takes her time and there just isn't enough time with Abel. We ate at the traditional restaurant for supper and enjoyed some crazy dancing. I wish I could move like they do, but my body is not cut out for that... Andy on the other hand... hmmmmm.
Stay tuned for our birth parent trip!
Friday, February 25, 2011
I had better get busy or I'm never going to get our trip completed, plus I want to start talking about all of Olivia's progress. So, here we go... day two. So we get off of the airplane and literally RUN to the visa line because we knew that if we didn't pass up most of the people we would have to wait FOREVER to get our entrance visa. We got down to the line and were like 3rd in line!!! We quickly got stamped and went through we decided to go back to the bank and exchange our currency but when we went back through the line they tried to stop us again! I almost felt like a criminal trying to go through. They looked closely at us and let us go through. We went to get our bags and ALL of them made it through!!!! We waited for are travel buddies to get all of their bags and headed out. The mass of Ethiopians looking at us was overwhelming once again. Even though we saw this last time, it was overwhelming once again. Andy went and found Abel, our favorite travel guide, and off we went. As we drove to the guesthouse both of us commented on how it felt like we had arrived at home. We made it to the guesthouse and were welcomed with the BIGGEST hug from Birtukan. She is the best!!!! She ushered us up to our rooms so that we could rest up for our visit with our baby later that day. But first, she fed us BREAKFAST!!!!! Her pancakes are amazing. But before we ate, Andy ran up and got a gift we had brought for her. When we were there at court, her blender blew up because of the electrical current. We brought her one that she could plug in with NO adapter. She was sooooo excited. With bellies full, we went up to our room and rested. I got under the covers and Andy said, "You had better not do that or you won't wake up!" Next thing I know, Andy is getting under the covers too. We forgot to even shut the door to our room. Moments later (more like 2 hours, but it felt like moments) Brittany knocked on the door and said it was time to go. So, off we went to the orphanage!!!! It was soooo wonderful to walk into Shalom and see our baby girl. She was on the floor and I almost didn't recognize her. Andy said go get her, she is the one looking at you!!! Yes, daddy recognized her before I did. I went and scooped her up and we cuddled and played for the next couple of hours. The video crew was there to capture our time with her as well. It was weird, but we know we will cherish it. Soon, daddy was outside playing with the older kids. I think he secretly likes soccer!!! We also had the opportunity to love on some of our friends kids! Emily T (our fellow FTIA family) has a baby girl there that is very tiny. We were able to take some pictures and video for her. I was so excited to do this because I remember how important it was for us to get those pictures from other traveling families. We also got to see some other kids we loved on while we were there for court. So awesome. They were excited to see us too. We soon loaded up and headed back to the guesthouse. Great day!!!
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
The journey to Ethiopia began with an incredibly crazy weekend full of unknowns. We got the email on Thursday, January 27 that we may have the Embassy appointment of the 8th, but they weren't sure! That would mean that we would need to leave the following week. Noah came down with the stomach flu and we had the cubscout Monster Truck Jam on Saturday. We were ready to go though. All of the unknowns were really pulling at us. We told them that we were willing to wait until the 8th since Noah was sick and we really wanted to make the birth family visit. If we went that weekend, we would not have been able to go to Awassa which was something we felt we MUST do. We waited through the weekend hoping for news. Finally on Monday morning while I was at work, my friend Brittany called who was also waiting on an Embassy appointment. She said, "Did you get the email?" I hadn't because I had twelve 3 and 4 year olds all around me waiting for our next project. I told her I would call her back and we would talk after work. I knew then that we were going. The scary thing was... A MAJOR SNOW STORM WAS ON ITS WAY!!!!!! Andy booked our tickets for Wednesday but we still weren't sure how the storm would pan out. That afternoon we realized that this was going to be a serious weather issue and we may not get out of Indianapolis. We frantically decided to move our flights up to Tuesday morning to get us out of Indy and into DC. We would then spend the night there for our Wednesday flight to Ethiopia. We had nowhere for the kids to go. My mom was suppose to fly up from Florida, but my dad was concerned about the weather and wasn't going to put her on a flight until Thursday. What on EARTH were we going to do with our other 3 kiddos!!!! We had to go, but really were at a loss. I got on the phone with some friends and in the matter of an hour we had their entire schedule for the week worked out. I love it how the family of God steps up for each other in times of need. My mom then worked it so she could get here on Thursday barring no more bad weather. We loaded the kids and their gear up for the week and took them to our friend's house. Monday night we spent packing up and cleaning. We still weren't sure if we were going to be able to get out of Indy because the storm was so bad. At 6am our pastor arrived to take us to the airport. The roads were EXTREMELY ice covered. There was about a 1/2 inch of ice on the roads with more moving into the area. I could barely walk to the car. He made Andy drive his car because he was so nervous driving!!!! We got to the airport and found that only certain flights were leaving... and ours was one of them!!! We boarded the plane and arrived in DC. Right after we left, they closed the Indy airport because of the icy conditions. God got us out just in time!!!! We met up with Will and Brittany that night for dinner and eagerly anticipated our trip to Addis. This was the first time we had met them in person and we had a great time at dinner with them. I think the Lord is building a lasting friendship!!! The next day we headed to the airport and checked in for the long 12 hour flight. We met up with another mom, Dana (who was a lifesaver in ET) and her mom Claire. We were all on the same flight. Brittany loaded us up with antibiotic ointment in our noses with q-tips!!!!! I'm sure we looked hilarious with Q-tips hanging out of our noses. I wish I would have gotten pictures... but hey, anything to prevent sickness right?~!?!! I also ran to the shop to pick up some all American Hershey bars for our church's sponsored children!!! They had to have some American chocolate!!! The plane ride was great. No problems whatsoever. We watched a few movies and caught some shut eye. We knew that we would be seeing our precious baby girl SOON!!!!! We had waited soooo long to go back and get her. I was really relaxed on the trip. Andy had a bit of anxiety when we first started and he had to work through it. We had started our malaria drugs and he was nervous about it. But, no worries... he was fine!!! So after an unplanned early departure, a day spent in DC, and a 12 hour flight, we FINALLY arrived in Addis Ababa. It was really wonderful flying over the city in the daytime. The last time we arrived, it was the middle of the night so we weren't able to catch a glimpse of the beautiful land from the air. I went to the bathroom on the plane and tried to peak out the window but the flight attendant yelled at me. I think she thought I was going to open the door or something!!! I will write about our first day in Ethiopia in my next post. Until then... here are a couple of pictures:
Daddy tickling his girl
Miss Olivia at the orphanage
Our travel Buddies... Will and Brittany with their precious Tytus
Friday, February 18, 2011
Well, if you haven't heard it by now I will shout it from the rooftops... WE ARE HOME!!!!! Miss Olivia Bereket Michelle Cottongim has arrived home at 9 months and 8 days old. She is a whopping 17 lbs. 14 oz. and 27 inches long. The delivery was a 17 hour plane ride from Addis Ababa to Rome and then to DC... followed by 1 1/2 hours from DC to Indy. It was a long labor, but the results are so perfect. She is one amazing little girl. I cannot describe how much I love her and how wonderful it is to have her home. It is quite surreal actually. Many times I feel like I'm just babysitting this beautiful baby, but deep in my heart I know that she is mine and no one can take her away. The trip to get her home was absolutely wonderful and it was full of lots of STUFF!!! I have been home one week today and I am still trying to process everything that happened. I believe God is working something deep in my heart. A lot happened... good and bad, but God's hand was in it all... just like it has been throughout this entire journey. We met some amazing people along the way and watched lasting friendships begin anew. I will never forget the 8 days we spent in Ethiopia this time around; I am forever changed (again). A part of my heart remains there... with the culture, the countryside, but especially the people... people I will never forget. Burtikan - a woman wise beyond her years, whom I love with a passion. Abel - a young man with a heart of gold who loves his country. Firew - another young man working hard to please God and desires to do his job well. Blen - a social worker who loves the children she overseas and who cried as we pulled away. Olivia's nanny - like a mother to my baby, I will forever be grateful for the love she showed my daughter. Z - my baby's birthmother; a woman who gave me a gift I will cherish forever. All of these people have a special place nestled within the depths of my heart. I cannot describe my feelings for each of them. Words cannot do them justice. I will chronicle my days during this trip, but I could not begin this portion without addressing these very special people who made my trip so memorable and who have changed my life. Thank you.