Tuesday, April 30, 2013

6 Months Since Gotcha Day

(I know it's been a while, so I intend to make up for it by being long-winded.  Grab some coffee.  Let's chat.)

Six months ago today (4/29/13), we went to two orphanages and left with two children. We had done this several times in the spring, but today we were not to return. Six months ago today, Milcho and Vanessa left their orphanages to begin their journey to having a family. It all sounded so beautiful then. In reality...not so much. The week we spent in Bulgaria doing paperwork was a surreal rollercoaster. On the one hand, we finally had our kids. On the other hand, we couldn't understand anything they said, and they could not understand anything we said. The communication issue plus the fact that they did not know us at all and therefore did not see us as having any authority over them at all was a recipe for trouble. That first week was difficult from a parenting perspective, but it was further complicated by the fact that we were completely out of our element. We couldn't communicate, and we were uncomfortable with our surroundings because they were very unfamiliar. Many times we comforted each other with “It'll be better when we get home,” “Just wait until we are home,” etc. We let several parenting things slide just because we felt we needed to be on familiar turf to really be able to stand our ground.

One week later we made it home. Things didn't exactly improve like we'd thought. Tim had one more week off of work to stay home with me, but it was a VERY difficult week. I tried to pick up a little homeschooling with Colton and Eli, but it quickly fell apart. I began to think there was no way I was going to be able to pull this off...not the homeschooling, not having 4 kids, not parenting, not maintaining the house, not maintaining my sanity...nothing. By the end of the week, I began to throw a new plan together. I talked with Colton's taekwondo instructor Master Stevens. Except for the homeschool classes on Tuesday and Friday mornings, his building was mostly empty. I made arrangements with him for us to come in the following Monday (my first week flying solo) to do our school time. Then plan was to come 2 or 3 days a week. This would allow the kids to focus on their work – bigger space than at home (for separating kids), fewer distractions (like toys and video games), and even a big space to run and play (for working off frustrations and learning to play together). I also had the advantage of having Master Stevens there to be my bodyguard/backup. Since we were having issues with their recognizing my authority, it was helpful to have him there to say, “Yes, you have to listen to Mom.” He could also step in when things were rough so I could go fall apart privately and then return after I'd regained my composure. That was a luxury I would not have had at home by myself.

Just yesterday I found some notes from this first week of school on my own. Again, it was a very tough week. But the beauty of it is, that we are no longer there. We still have issues with attitudes and trying to blend everyone together. I'd say we had several pivotal moments in the first couple of months. Thanksgiving was awful. Christmas was tricky. But I truly think the worst is behind us. I still tense up at the first sign of resistance, and I have to remind myself to settle down because it isn't likely to escalate to the level of “bad” that it used to be.

The first day of school 6 months ago was so bad, we came back the next day and every day that week. Today, we are still going to the tkd school everyday for school. I pitch in around the school during the day and even work in the after-school program. Colton got his black belt last October just before we traveled, Eli rejoined in December, Milcho and Vanessa also started in December, and I gave in and signed up for classes in January (in addition to the Krav Maga class I was already in). Everyone seems to really be enjoying their tkd! I signed up both to have an activity in common with the kids but also for a way to release stress. So far, so good!

English is coming along nicely. I had heard that internationally adopted kids were often fluent in about 3 months. We didn't quite make that deadline, maybe because they are older kids and because they had each other to talk to in Bulgarian. I know we are making strides, though, when I hear them speak to each other occasionally in English or I hear Vanessa's dolls conversing in English.

I made another interesting observation recently. I saw someone holding his 18-month-old whom he had just adopted internationally. Everyone was gathered around ooo-ing and ahh-ing. At first, the little boy just looked blankly at everyone. Then it happened. He smiled. At that, everyone melted. “OH, he just got even cuter!!” It was then that I realized that our two had lost their “cuteness” before we ever left Bulgaria. I was tired, angry, sleep-deprived, confused, afraid, etc.   NOTHING they said or did at that point was “cute”! See, this is one of the difficulties of adopting older children: their attitudes outweigh their cute factor. When we give birth or adopt newborns, they are cute for a really long time before there is a problem. We are able to bond with the cuteness...learn to love the cuteness. Then when problems come, there is a storehouse of cuteness that has built up that lessens the severity of the problem. When you adopt older children, you skip the cute phase. The problems are just ugly problems with out any cuteness to paint over them. I've wondered if step-parents can relate to this. They, too, take on a child they don't know and who has passed the cute phase. They CHOOSE to call this child their own and take care of them, even love them. The child, in turn, doesn't necessarily care and may actually try to refuse. Hmm. Maybe step-parents could help advise parents who adopt older kids.

It's funny. Writing this has been surprisingly difficult. Reading those old notes and thinking through where we've been has been hurtful, emotional, depressing, and encouraging all at the same time. Do I still recommend adoption? In a heartbeat. How about older kids? A sibling group? If you already have children? Yes, to all of the above – BUT, KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GETTING INTO. Research as much information as possible. Look for the bad (if you can find someone talking honestly about it) and expect a little worse. If it turns out better, celebrate! Ask yourself honestly if you think you could handle the worst. Make sure you stay on the same page with your spouse especially on discipline. My husband and I both have teaching backgrounds. We have experience dealing with other people's kids (i.e. no “cute time” with them). We've had to make classroom rules that everyone followed, and we have made (and followed through on) a consequence list for not following the classroom rules. We compared our philosophies long before we had children of our own. So we had a head-start in this area. Not perfect, but a head-start. We also did not walk into medical issues. Sure, they have cavities, and we just learned Milcho has some color-blindness. Big deal. Those are not family-disrupting issues like a child who will need life-long care or several years of major surgeries or who is facing early death but needed a family, too. I knew I wasn't strong enough to choose that path. (Yes, it's different if you give birth to that situation. You didn't choose it, but you adapt to it.) I simply wasn't strong enough to willingly choose it. But, there will be serious discipline issues, especially with our “middles” being so close in age to our bios (the “bookends” we call them). I often have to explain why consequences are different – for now, even though I might actually be angrier with the middles because of built up issues.

Like the saying goes: what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I'm still alive, so I guess I'm stronger now than I was 6 months ago.

And finally, the pictures......Ummm, next time. I don't have my camera with me to copy the pictures from, and I hate to put off posting this any longer. It's already another day late! I will try to get the pics on tonight or in the next couple of days.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Long Overdue Update

Okay, I get it.  I completely understand why people quit blogging after they bring their child home.  This post started out as a 1-month update.  In a couple of days, it will be a 2-month update.  Life has been very messy.  Most of the things I read leading up to our adoption seems to have glossed this time over by referring to it as a time of "transition" or "adjustment".  And that's all they say!  I think that is a little misleading.  Now, don't get me wrong.  We have had some good moments, but we have had some downright horrible moments.  Since this blog is public, I won't go into great detail.  But let's just say I have had quite the workout -- lots of soreness, bruises, ice packs, headaches, sleep deprivation, tears, frustration, anger, and being cussed  at, yelled at, and flipped off.  There are times when you actually appreciate the language barrier.  It helps you stay calmer if you don't really know what they are yelling at you.  But we have noticed in the last 2 or 3 weeks that the problems are further apart and less in intensity.

Common problems include
*refusing to follow directions (what kid likes that?), but these directions can even be simple things like put on your shoes so we can go.
*wanting to go back to Bulgaria (mainly Milcho...Tim told him he has to learn English first and get an education here.  Then he can go back and help "his people".)
*hitting and just being really rough
*getting into everything (I realize they are curious and exploring, but sometimes it's like having two really large toddlers in the house.)  If they touch it, there's a good chance it will be broken.
*and so on.............

If we had not truly believed God had His hand on this entire journey, we might be tempted to think we had really messed up.  But I also still have faith that this will eventually be just fine.

One of the most common questions lately is about how their English is coming.  It's really coming along.  We don't have conversations yet, but we can get by pretty well with Milcho.  Vanessa is a little behind him.  I think this is partly due to her younger age and the fact that she relies on Milcho to interpret for her.  We have been very grateful on more than one occasion to have a translator on the iPad, though.

I'm way behind on pictures, so let me just jump straight to that.

Here are a few from our first trip back in May.

When we returned, I made this picture to show friends...

Next, we spent the summer preparing their rooms.  Here is a small room for 3 boys.

The bed over the futon is Colton's.  The one over the TV is Eli's.  The other is Milcho's.

 The curtain at the end conceals Colton's rather large walk-in closet under Milcho's bed.

Colton's closet...

A view FROM Colton's closet.

Top half is Milcho's closet.  Bottom half is Eli's.

Shoe storage for Milcho and Eli.  Colton has one in his closet.

Hooks behind the door.  We are using even possible square inch.

And now onto her room...

And a look behind the curtain (before hanging it).  I just had to create some storage somewhere.  Her entire room used to be our storage.  We have actually added a 5-drawer chest on the right-hand end since I took this picture.

2nd trip:  October 27, 2012
Left mid-70's in Charlotte.  Expected mid-70's in Bulgaria.  Layover in Germany had SNOW!

Love this picture from Germany to Bulgaria.  I do believe it is part of the Alps.

First Day

First meal...at our favorite pizza place, of course.

The picture I tried to use as a teaser...

Tea Party with Dad

After medical check-ups today, they played doctor with the doll that was in our apartment.

Vanessa read the doll a bedtime story from a magazine.  Then she put her down to sleep and told us to be quiet.


Dr. Milcho in Daddy's glasses.

Dr. Vanessa

Vanessa did NOT like Daddy's scratchy beard.  I posted earlier that she "shaved" him and then made him pay her.

Vitosha -- the pedestrian-only street where we spent most of our time.  This is the newly "remodeled" section.  It was under construction during our first trip.

Here, you'll see where the new an old sections meet.

This is all old section.  Notice the tracks for the trolley system.

This is our 4-hour layover in Germany on the way home.

This picture is from our first full day home. 

Thanksgiving at Granny Peggy's house.  Notice Milcho has an awesome new haircut.

Vanessa enjoyed all the snacking.

My favorite part:  The quiet trip home.

I think Vanessa may be dreaming of shopping trips to come.  I'm in trouble!

Now, backing up a bit before our Bulgaria trip, I completely missed blogging Colton's big milestone.  Just before we left, Colton earned his black belt in taekwondo.  Here he is working out just a couple of days before testing.

None of my pictures of testing turned out good enough to post, but here he is the day he received his belt.  His instructor is Master Jack Stevens, Jr.  This was in late October, and he is still beaming.  Isn't he cute??

As of a couple of weeks ago, Eli has rejoined the class (he was a yellow belt when he quit before), and Milcho and Vanessa have started the class as well.  I've been hoping to post a picture of all 4 of them dressed out, but I can't seem to get the picture taken!  Maybe soon...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Day 7 -- Coming Home

***I'm a little late with this. Pictures to follow soon.

Today has been a day of travel. I didn't even bother going to bed last night.  I was busy packing and charging electronics -- remember I had to charge them one at a time since I only had one adapter.  I went ahead and got my hair washed about midnight so it could be drying, and I sat down on the couch about 1:00am with my timer to get an hour of sleep.  At 2:00 I got up, changed clothes, and began getting ready for the day.   We got the kids up at 3:00 and were packed and waiting by 4:00.   Stefan picked us up at 4:30 and took us to the airport.  With everything we had to do there (and with 2 kiddos who didn't know what to do, and we couldn't easily tell them), we made it to our gate just in time to get in line for boarding. 

We were very concerned about Vanessa's motion sickness. In fact, we had to stop once on the way to the airport to let her change seats and crack a window.  We had brought some Dramamine with us, so we gave her one just before we boarded the plane as it was still at least a half hour to take-off.  That pill plus the wee morning hour, and she was asleep before we left the ground.  She woke up once and wanted to eat the sandwich they had brought us.  I was nervous to let her, but figured she couldn't avoid eating for the entire 19-hour trip.  She ate about half and lay back down in my lap and went right back to sleep.  I woke her up when we landed.  Milcho thought the plane ride was awesome.  

Next we had a 4-hour layover in Munich.  It was a little bit long, but I'm sure the extra time NOT on a plane helped the next plane ride not feel quite so long.   They watched a little Phineas and Ferb on the iPad because I found an outlet to use.  They colored and watched the planes coming and going.  Vanessa even involved Tim in a photo shoot with her stuffed animals and an old camera she had.  She took pictures of him with the animals and had him take pictures of her with the animals.  I believe they even took some shots of just the animals posed just right.

The second flight was the long flight, and it was just that -- LONG!  The kids actually did remarkably well.  There must have been a lot of you praying!  They seemed pretty content with the in-flight movies even though they were in English.  They slept some, colored some, and anxiously awaited the drinks and food that would be brought around (SO my kids!). Vanessa's pill wore off a little way into this flight, and she seemed to be doing so well that I never followed up with another.  The landing, however, made her queasy.  So we decided to give her half a pill before the final flight.  

Our layover in Charlotte was a fairly short one, but the good Lord had our flight actually arrive early, and we needed it.  In my fatigue, I gave the first security person the wrong stack of papers.  See, I had two sets.  One was a set of sealed papers only to be opened by immigration.  The other was our set of originals.  It had been stressed to us that the sealed packet must remain sealed or they would not be accepted.  So, in Munich I showed my originals with our passports in order to get through security.  When we got to Charlotte and the first security person, I did the same.  I did not know that he would keep them  and our passports and send them to the immigration people.  I may have also been thinking that I was not yet at my final destination -- I wasn't home yet.  We were sent on to claim our luggage (which we would have to recheck) and then sent to a small room to wait for our passports to be returned to us.  At one point, Vanessa had to go to the bathroom.  When I returned, Tim was outside the room by our luggage, and I thought we were done.  No, he had only come out to get the sealed packets.  He said that someone had showed up, said we had not given them the right papers, and got the sealed packets from him.  We sat back down and waited some more.  Finally, we were called and given our passports.  I asked the man if we didn't need some of the papers back.  He said no.  I said that we were told we needed to keep our originals.  He assured me that they do this all the time...it's okay.  Reluctantly, we got our things and left.  That guy did not know that we had given two sets of papers.  He was just returning our passports as he did many times with others.  Now, we are trying to get new originals of their birth certificates and the adoption decree sent to us from Bulgaria.  Yay.  Finally, we were able to make it to our gate and call our parents that we were back on US soil.

The last flight was uneventful except that Vanessa was sleepy again but now also truly tired and therefore cranky.  Milcho also fell asleep.  We arrived in Nashville to a small but eager welcome party.  Thank you Jennifer Sade for meeting us, and thank you Jennifer, Brad, Karsten, and Kylie Evans for bringing Colton and Eli to meet us.   We chatted awhile, claimed our bags, and headed for Memaw's and pizza.  I was glad not to have to go straight home to fix supper, but it did make us get home really late.  Then we couldn't go straight to bed because there was so much new to take in.  We finally and gratefully crashed.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Day 6 -- Extra Day

Today was our "extra" day.  We could have flown out today, but we were picky about our flight home.  See, last time we came and went across the ocean on a plane that had 4 seats together in the middle section.  For a 10+ hour trip, we felt it was important to sit all together with the kids sandwiched between us.  So we took a later flight that leaves in the wee hours of Sunday morning here.  So here we sit for one more day longing for home.

The morning just sort of dragged by.  Our highlight was getting to meet Hristiana for lunch and a visit.  Backstory...  When we left Sofia last time, Tim and I had seats that were not together. I had a window seat with and older couple from Germany.  They spoke no English and spent a big part of the flight trying to figure out how to adjust the air vents for their seats.  Tim also had a window seat on the other side of the aisle and maybe 8 or 10 rows back.  He was next to a young lady who was a law student from Bulgaria and who spoke English.  (I've teased him often for this.)  Truth be known, it's better that Tim sat by her than I did.  He is much more likely to strike up conversation with a stranger than I am.  His conversation skills resulted in a very important friendship for us.  He told her all about our adoption.  They exchanged names, she said she was on Facebook, and he wisely offered that his wife would send her a friend request.  (That's my guy!)  I connected with her, and she graciously offered to help us with translations.  We sent her three different letters to clean up before sending them to our kids.  I also sent her a list of phrases I wanted to learn before traveling, and those have been so handy!

Now, back to present... She was out of school this week but studying for exams.  Yet she took the time to travel at least an hour (I may be underestimating) by train to Sofia to meet us for lunch.  Finally, I got to talk to her in person for myself.  She is so sweet!  We had lunch and went for a walk-and-talk.  Finally, though, she needed to get back to her studies and her train for home, and I needed to start our packing.  I hope someday she can make it to America and visit with us there.

The afternoon was mostly packing, a little shopping, and supper.  We did have another really rough period this evening.  This time with Milcho.  I don't think that they think we have the right to correct them.  It has been a tough week -- emotionally draining.  But I believe in the kids and who they will become, and I believe God still has much to teach us through the process.  He didn't bring us this far to set us adrift on our own.  In His power and to His glory, we will weather this storm -- it's not a big one to Him.  

Friday, November 2, 2012

Day 5 - Waiting for Documents

We actually slept late today.  At least that killed a little time this morning. We got our third silent treatment from Milcho. Again it was over the use of the phone.  I can't wait to get home where this will simply not be an option anymore. Another time, they actually got into a spat with each other.  I'm not 100% sure what happened, but it looked like she changed the tv channel he was watching.  He yelled at her; she threw a brush across the room -- hard.   I told her she had 5 minutes to sit with me on the couch. So they each had their moments.  

Deliana took us for a ride on the new subway system.  It was so pretty.  when we came in May, there was a huge construction zone because they were building it. Now, it has been open only about 2 months.  The details (like all the shops that are going to be down there) are not finished yet.  And I just realized I forgot to take any pictures down there. How dumb is that!!!  Grr!  Anyway, the ride only lasted about 3 minutes and was really cool, but it made Vanessa a bit nauseous.  We took the subway to the mall and ate lunch there at KFC. Deliana had left us at the mall, and we did not feel brave enough to take the subway back alone.  We had no way to tell where we were going.  So, we just walked back.  (I figured out on Google maps today that the mall is 1.1 miles from our apartment.  Doesn't seem like it.  City miles really are shorter than country miles.)

More hanging out in the apartment before Deliana came to bring us all of our documents and collect our final payment.   We revisited our pizza place and the ice cream place for supper.

Once home the evening took a rough turn right before bed.  Not so much a problem directly with the kids, just a culmination of issues that will go away just as soon as we get home.  I've generally enjoyed my time in Bulgaria, and it's a beautiful place.  But I feel the need to get the kids back on my turf.  They feel a little to detached from us here because of the language barrier between us and them and the language familiarity between them and everyone else.  They are leaning heavily on all the people who lovingly gave them their phone numbers, and they even keep calling poor Deliana about every little thing.  When we get home, they will be so out of their comfort zone, I believe they will have to learn to depend solely on us.  And that's what they need to do for a while...just like Colton and Eli depended entirely on us when they were infants.  

Then after the kids were asleep and as if I weren't stressed enough, I pulled out our return itineraries to type up a simplified version, and I almost flew into a triple panic.  Tim and I have one itinerary because ours is round-trip.  The kids have a different itinerary because theirs is a one-way trip.  I looked over the printouts several times and saw that while our flight was leaving Sunday morning, theirs was leaving Saturday morning, just a few hours away. (This was discovered about 9 or 10 PM Friday night.)  The only shred of calm I held on to was that the information on each was identical except for the dates.  I checked the airline's app on my phone only to find all of the flight numbers did in fact have identical departure times on Saturday and Sunday.  Yikes!!  I emailed our travel agent to check it out.  We waited a few minutes and finally decided to just take the international roaming charges and at least call him to tell him to check his email ASAP.  

He felt everything was fine, but said he would check it out and email us.  An exceptionally slow few minutes later, we got an email with an updated itinerary. We travel together!  No need to stick the kids on a 19 hour trip through 2 countries and 3 airports alone.  Thank you, Lord!  

A potential warning to future 2-trip adoption travelers:  the second trip may seem twice as long as the first.

Have I mentioned how badly I want to go home?  

Just 2 more sleeps, 2 more breakfasts, 1 lunch, and 1 supper. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Day 4 -- US Embassy

This has been a very slow day.  We just hung out in the apartment most of the morning. Just before we headed out for lunch, we discovered we had no running water.  We headed out and ended up at Subway -- where they had no electricity.   We got sandwiches and ate by what light was coming through the windows.

Back at the apartment, we started getting ready for our appointment at the US embassy.  We had been told that we needed to dress nicely for this.  Not so much.  No one else was dressed special, not even the other family with us or our escort from the Bulgarian agency. We had also heard today's appointment referred to as our embassy interview.  Not really. We signed one paper per child and received a packet of papers with instructions to keep them with us at all times on the way home. The only questions we were asked were...
*How are things going with the kids?
*Have you been asked to pay any unusual fees?
*Has anyone told you what you need to do on the way home?"

The hardest part was getting in the building. It was like airport security only more so.  Tim and I went through first and were ushered out the door at the back of the room.  This led to outside where we stood waiting for the other family and for our escort to show us where to go.  The guards inside motioned for us to go on. Really?  We're just supposed to wander around the grounds of the embassy?  Granted the walkway led eventually to the actual embassy building, but we didn't know that.  I told Tim it would be really nice if the US embassy actually had Americans in the security office that greets you. Not very inviting.  

We came back to the apartment and hung out for a couple of hours before heading out for dinner.   We went to a new place that was recommended to us. They serve a variety of food, and they have English menus!!  The waiter came to take our order, and Milcho spoke up first.  We asked the waiter what he had said.  The waiter said, "He said he wants to go to McDonald's." Ouch!  Maybe that's the reason for what happened next. Since we couldn't ask the kids what they wanted, and at least Vanessa couldn't read the menu, I asked the waiter what he recommended that kids usually liked. He made a recommendation. Turns out it was one of the most expensive items on the menu, and the kids hated it.   He also stiffed us for the one type of juice that was at least 3 times the cost of the others.    We took the kids from there to a place that was not a sit-down place but not McDonald's. Milcho looked and talked to the guy working and then led us out.  We went with the last resort.  We went ahead and took them for ice cream as we had planned and then gave them an assortment of sandwich, cereal, and snacks back home.

More play time, baths, Skype, TV, and finally bed time.  We are basically done now.  We have no more appointments to make.  Tomorrow we just wait around for all of our papers and the kids' passports to be delivered.  It is hard to fill the day away from home, especially in a totally foreign environment and with two very active kids with whom we can't communicate.  Should make for an interesting day. 

Aching for my Colton and Eli...and my bed...and my own shower.  I feel like I've not slept or bathed in about a week!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Day 3 - Free Day

**For anyone who didn't follow along during our first trip, know that posts will be long.   This is my way of documenting our journey and getting details back to the boys -- even if I read it to them myself when I return.  Haha.  You have been warned!

First, a few things I forgot to mention.  

DAY 1 - We were told (and passed along) that they might not leave the orphanages with anything, including the gifts we took them before.  We were quite pleasantly surprised that they were given the choice to bring anything of theirs they wanted as long as we said it was okay.  They brought all of the things we had given them except a few things they had given out to their friends -- which was certainly fine.  Vanessa also brought a couple of very worn summer dresses that I'm sure she will be too big for by next summer and a new looking stuffed animal.  Milcho brought several toys and what looks like a brand new down-filled nylon vest.  And someone even gave each of them a little spending money -- equal to about $1.32 each

Have you wondered, like I did, whether they got our letters?  They did.  Yay!  Milcho has them all with well-worn creases.

For those who may be traveling soon (Jill), triple check the weather even as you leave for the airpoirt.  Last week as we prepared to make our one big shopping trip to buy clothes for the kids, I checked the weather here to seen what kind of clothes to buy. The temps were very comparable to ours at the time.  I thought I was over preparing by bringing all long-sleeve shirts.  The jackets we brought were in case evenings were chilly.  When we got here, not only was it much cooler (i.e. cold), but I learned that last week when I checked was an unusual warm spell.  Grr!  Add to that, the fact that our heat hasn't been working (see last post), and we've been wearing jackets inside!  We complained (to ourselves) that it was hot on the plane.  No complaining this time.  I might just be thawed out by home.  

DAY 2 - Yesterday, I thought this was cute at the clinic. The doctor must have asked their names because I heard Vanessa give her first and new middle name -- Vanessa Elizabeth. I didn't know they knew that. Milcho then finished it as Vanessa Elizabeth Thomas. Okay, not quite. Thomas is his middle name. He corrected himself, though, pronouncing DeMoss to rhyme with Thomas.  We'll work on that. 

DAY 3 - Today was a free day.  Last night we had to call Deliana (our translator) to help us with Milcho.  So she decided to come and get us this morning and take us for an outing.   It would have been a very long day without it.  We walked about 15 minutes to a mall.   We went in a toy store to let them look.  Yes, we decided to let them pick out something. We set a price, but once I told Vanessa she could pick out one more thing to go with a book, she wanted to pick out everything in the store.  I got a few girly heavy sighs, but nothing serious.  Tim and Milcho looked at small cars.  He has been talking about getting one since Monday, and Tim has told him they will pick one out when we get back to America -- more choices, possible better price, a big one, and we don't want to risk going over our flight's weight limits.  We were close to them coming. Anyway, there were two cars he liked, so we told him to choose one.  The next thing we know he is acting like last night.  He stopped answering us, looking at us, etc.  He wouldn't choose and once quietly just sat down in the floor. Our first American assumption was that he didn't like that he couldn't get both.  Tim decided to just pick one himself so we could go. We asked them if they were hungry.  No. We walked some more. 

Then we came to The Sniper Store.  I wasn't too sure about the name, and I could see lots of camo and guns in a dimly lit store. The kids wanted to go in, so we did.  Turns out it was Airsoft and paintball stuff.  Best of all they had a shooting range. Vanessa was the first to speak up wanting to shoot. (Looks like we may have a tomboy on our hands after all...one who her likes her bling.)  She and Milcho each fired ten round with a pistol. It was interesting.  The lady gave all of us safety glasses.  Hmmm. Okay.  The targets were digital but the ammo was real. When you fired, the target registered a red dot where you hit, and then the pellet ricocheted all over and landed somewhere else in the store, often behind you.  When the kids finished, Tim wanted to shoot a rifle.   (I thought, "Yay!  That means I can have a turn.")  For the record, I don't know why everyone was surprised at my shooting.  I don't go for speed, but I aim well.  Of my ten shots, maybe only two weren't at least touching the bullseye.   Tim talked for quite a while how fun that was. Colton is all about Airsoft right now.  I hate he wasn't here for that.  

We got lunch in the mall at Subway.   Afterward, Milcho picked up is new car and said something to Tim that included the word America. My brilliant husband quickly deduced that Milcho was worried that buying the little car here broke Tim's promise that they would get one in America.  Tim assured him that he still intended to buy the bigger car when we get home.  This perked Milcho right up, and the afternoon began with everyone happy.

After lunch we made the walk back to the apartment and snuck in a few catnaps while the kids played and watched TV.  This was followed by a round of wrestling and swords.  Finally we set out for supper.  We wanted to try a place new to us but recommended. We walked in circles and called Deliana for directions.  When we finally found it and were about to go inside, Milcho grabbed my hand and started saying something including "no" and "restaurant".  Thinking he wanted to go to a place we just passed we let him lead.   Nope, he kept going.  We wandered.  He used the words for restaurant and apartment, and I thought I heard a less common word for needing to go to the bathroom. We made it back to the main strip, and he had an "aha" moment.   We now thought he was leading us back to the Pizza Palace which was just ahead.  Passed it.  We walked and walked.  Finally Vanessa said SHE had to go to the bathroom.   Since we were almost at the end of the street, I suggested we head to McDonald's.  Found the coed bathroom upstairs with the keypad outside to get in. Yes, we sat down outside the door and waited to catch it open as someone came or went. Vanessa then Milcho went. As we prepared to begin our quest for the missing restaurant, guess what?  Yep.  We were in it.  He had dragged us blocks to have McDonald's a second night in a row.  We did, but I don't think I could handle it a third.

Remember last night's episode with Vanessa?  The original "punishment" for ignoring my instructions was to sit 5 minutes in a chair beside me. This turned into 4 attempts, and finally moving her to my lap so she couldn't leave her chair. That really made her mad. By the time she had stopped throwing a fit (and long since served her time), Tim guesses an hour had passed.  Tonight Tim told her no to something she was about to do.  She immediately did it.  He assigned her the 5 minutes but started with her in his lap.  Five minutes later, I brushed out her wet hair, and we had to tell her she could go.  She went and got some toys and grout them back to play in the floor in front of us.  Talk about a complete turn around!  Next Milcho asked to use the phone. This has become quite a problem. We explained (twice ) that he could talk if his teacher called, but we were through making calls.  Heavy sigh.  Then he moved on to play with Vanessa. Another big improvement.  So to all of you who prayed for us after last night, thank you -- we certainly had a different night tonight. 

We just put them to bed.  Earlier than the last two nights and without us for the first time.  We'll see how it goes.

(Shhhh.  They went right to sleep.)