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.


Snuggles


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.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Oops!

Sorry about the super teaser on the last post.  Apparently the picture didn't not show up (at least for some) even though it did in my preview.  I'm going to try one more time here, but if it doesn't work, I will post the "sneak peek" along with all of the pictures when I get home and have a regular computer instead of the iPad.

(Cross your fingers.)

image.jpeg

Day 2 (Tuesday) - A Sneak Peek





We were told not to post pictures until we actually get home, so this is just a sneak peek.  For those who have seen their pictures, you may notice that Milcho's hair is longer, and Vanessa's is shorter. 

 We had most of the day to ourselves.  We spent the morning trying to keep them out of the kitchen.  They are not used to having free access to all the food, and they want to eat it all the time.  It's kind of like going on a cruise.  You're not starving when you go on board but it's there all the time and looks new and inviting.  We also had quite a bit of practice with "no".  Vanessa thinks it is quite funny to be told not to do something (or TO DO something).  At least at first.  If we persist (which we do), she then may stomp her foot, fuss, etc.  If that doesn't work, she may start crying.  But at some point in the process, she gets distracted and is suddenly  and miraculously fine.  So we just hold out until the distraction.

You know how we have "central" heat at home?  Well, here they have truly "centralized" heat and the government has not turned it on yet for the winter season.  Meanwhile, you do have small units installed in the wall near the ceiling in each room.  It's a lot like having space heaters, I guess.  So far, none of ours work, and tonight it is supposed to be 32 degrees.  By lunch I had on my shirt, fleece vest, hoodie sweater, and rain jacket, and I was pacing trying to warm up.  Now I admit, I am excessively cold-natured, but even the kids were wearing their jackets. (Update: After some advice this afternoon from another couple traveling this week, we have them working a little.  Still cool, but I'm not visibly shivering.)

After lunch, we had to go for the medical check-up.  Not a big deal, but a very long wait in a very small space that actually got hot.  We were dropped off again at our apartment and headed out for supper.  We decided to pull out all the stops and jump in head first...we went to McDonald's.  They seemed familiar with it already but not completely at home.  While we were there two Roma kids were run out and came back in the side door.  They were going through begging.  For the most part people just "didn't see" them.  Milcho and Vanessa wanted a McDonald's doughnut for dessert, so we got them on the way out.  The walk back to the apartment was now very cold.  I noticed once that Milcho did a double take at a man we passed who was going through a dumpster.  I wondered what he was thinking. (Earlier while driving, I saw a man at a dumpster with a liter juice carton turned straight up drinking from it, and then he threw it back in and kept looking.)  I wondered if Milcho, even at his young age, thinks about how his life could have turned out so differently.

As bedtime drew near, something happened with Milcho.  I'm still not sure what, but we hope our translator can help us straighten things out tomorrow.  I think there was a misunderstanding about his using the phone.  We knew he was waiting for a call from his teacher but asked him not to make any other calls tonight...just wait for that one.  His teacher called about 30 minutes later than expected, and when Tim took him the phone, he refused to talk to her.  Then he wouldn't talk any more to us.  Long story short, the situation was smoothed over, somebody called him, and he got ready for bed seemingly satisfied.  In the meantime, Vanessa and I had another battle of the wills -- we've had several small ones, but this one was on the heels of all the others and lasted a really long time. Basically I was trying to convince her that while I love her, she still needs to listen to me and do what I say.  Her reaction to this was "no" and I think her version of "never!"  I held my ground through her tears (and eventually Milcho's) and then fell into tears myself once the fit was over and they had both calmed down and gone to bed.  I didn't mean to cry and tried not to let them see, but honestly I was exhausted myself.  When they saw my tears, they seemed very concerned and snuggly.  All I could do was assure them that I love them and that everything was okay.

I never expected them to be perfect.  I know we have quite an adjustment ahead of us.  Hey, my bio kids aren't perfect either.  But simply put, that was hard!  --on everyone!  But I truly believe in my heart they are worth the effort.  Now, I'm even more tired, and I'm going to bed.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Trip and Day 1 (Monday)


We left Saturday about 1:00 pm and flew to Charlotte. As we left there, the temperature was in the low to mid 70's, and Sofia was predicting the same for our arrival. As our plane approached Munich for landing, we were shocked to hear that it was currently snowing there!  We were not dressed for snow, and this was the one airport where we took a bus out to the plane and boarded from outside.   Brrr!

Once we were in Sofia (now Sunday) and settled into our apartment, we headed out for dinner and ice cream.  We were so very tired but stayed up as long as we could to adjust to the time.  Monday we headed to Montana to pick up the kids.  We left at 7:30am and didn't get back until about 5:30pm. We met with each orphanage director (a fill-in director at one).  Next we got to meet their teachers!  That was a treat.  They truly seemed happy for the kids and a little sad to see them go.  Each of them made sure we left with a way to contact them if we had questions or anything. Oh, and just before we began the trip back (about 2.5 hours), they informed us that Vanessa gets car sick. They gave us some pills (to be taken with food but she had not recently eaten) and some plastic bags and napkins.   We did end up using one bag and stopping a couple of times. We completely missed lunch and had to go straight to the police station to do paperwork and pictures for passports.  

By the time we finished, everyone was starving. Our translator dropped us off at our apartment, and we set out for our first solo venture with the kids. We decided to go to the one place we were most familiar with... The Pizza Palace. We struggled to understand each other, but we managed to place an order and eat. 

After dinner, we still needed to stop for a few groceries before heading home. The kids asked for a couple of treats each, and we asked them to choose some cheese, sandwich meat, and even some yogurt and granola we thought would be good for breakfast. All of our food may have filled two Walmart bags back home. Now, I believe these kids have been fed just fine, but by the looks on their faces when we put it all on the checkout counter would have convinced you we were preparing a feast. I'm not sure they can handle Thanksgiving in a few weeks!   : )  They were grinning so big!  When we were back out on the sidewalk, Milcho thanked me and kissed my cheek for all of their purchases. 

Although, I've read adoption material about watching how much they eat (so they don't overeat), I was still surprised that they wanted to eat everything before bedtime. They had not finished their pizza, so I thought they were full. We finally said no, and told them to wait until tomorrow for more. 

Later we had two Skype calls with Colton and Eli, watched a little TV, and Milcho made several phone calls to people like his teacher who had given him phone numbers to take with him.  I could tell he was telling them everything he did today. It's his way of staying connected to them just a little longer.  

Finally we tackled baths and got ready for bed.  Bedtime took a really long time. Just about the time I thought they would soon be asleep, they got a second wind and the lights went on.  The next thing I knew, Milcho and I were trying to have a conversation on the iPad with the translator while Tim and Vanessa were coloring. Our second attempt at bedtime resulted in our lying down with them, and everyone went to sleep. I woke up and snuck back in my room to finish writing this. 

Already they seem to be very loving. They like to touch us, hold our hands, hug and kiss us, or just be near us. I could tell Milcho was correcting Vanessa a few times which made me grin. Milcho has already expressed some sadness to be leaving, but when asked if he was happy to be here tonight, he said he was very pleased. 

I'm anxious to get back to a place and routine I am familiar with, but I know what is my comfort zone is completely the opposite for them. We really must begin working on English tomorrow, so we can communicate more comfortably. Besides, my translator only works here at the apartment where I have wifi. 

Tomorrow we have their medical visits. It's basically a formality required for travel, not anything extensive. I think of it like the sports physicals back home, more of a wellness screening for paperwork. But in keeping with our family tradition, ice cream may be required afterward.    : ) 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Emotional Rollercoaster

High:  Travel dates confirmed!  Yay!  We leave in 8 days.  We can start making travel plans.

Low:  We leave in 8 days.  The house isn't ready.

High:  I finally got new measurements.  We can shop.

Low:  We leave in 8 days.  The house isn't ready, and I have a lot of shopping to do.

Low:  We leave in 8 days.  I'm going to have to stop school for a while, and MAYBE I will get most of it finished.

High:  Two offers of help to get it all finished.

High:  TKD class went well.  Colton tests tonight for his black belt.  Way to go Colton!!

Low:  Back home to the house.

High:  Memaw took the kids for the afternoon so I can work.

LOW LOW LOW:  Got a letter from the last remaining grant.  Turned down.  This was after what felt like a build up from them and our agency that this was one of the more likely ones we would get.

Now, I'm just sitting here with the house in a mess and our last financial support pulled out from under us.  This leaves us a good $7000-8000 short.  Last time we just cleaned out our savings account and our emergency fund to make the trip.  We've not been able to put any of that back.  So we can't do that this time.  Not that a yard sale would help at this point, but half of it has already been donated.   The other half, I've almost finished packing up.

You know, it really doesn't matter.  Cash on hand or not, we leave in 8 days to get our kids.  And we will.  This is just another pothole on this journey.  No one promised a newly paved road.  Just that the trip would be worth it in the end.  And it HAS.

Your prayers for us on how we should approach the rest of this journey would be appreciated.  Pray also that the cost of travel and lodging would come in under our expectations.  And a special one: that at least one flight attendant on the return overseas flight would be able to speak at least some Bulgaria.  (Hey, it doesn't hurt to ask!)

HIGH:  We leave in 8 days to get our kids!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Grants and a Homeschool Update

Yesterday we heard from one of the remaining two grants:  they turned us down.  That's okay.  There's still one more out, and more importantly God is still orchestrating the whole thing.   We will most likely travel in about 2 weeks, so there is no more time to apply for another grant (even if I could find another one) or hold another fundraiser.  I do still have bracelets for sale, and I can still make ear warmers and such.  All of these items can be found on the Olive Tree Promise website, or you can contact me directly if you are interested.  We also still have the Just Love Coffee website if you'd like to order coffee.  The donation button on the right is still active as well.  Many, many of you have generously given already, and I'm not asking you to give again.  But if anyone has not donated or purchased anything and would like to help out, I just wanted you know that it isn't too late, and we do still need funding.

Enough about that.  I received the ceiling mounted curtain track Thursday for Vanessa's room.  Hopefully we will get that up in the next day or so.  Then we can measure for the curtains and get them made.  Once that is done, perhaps I will go ahead and post pictures of the rooms.  I almost did it Thursday until the track arrived.  Then I decided I should wait just a couple more days so I could show you a better picture.

For you homeschoolers, I'm sure you will understand that getting everything done has been difficult.  My time is torn between school, usual housework, monumental reorganization and redecorating, preparing for church, and adoption work.  But my original schedule had about 3 weeks for Christmas break, so if we have to use  some of that because we get behind, so be it.  Our school year will be finished when all of the work is done -- whenever that is.

I just changed Colton's history curriculum.  He finished volume 4 of Story of the World last year.  I thought I'd try Mystery of History this year just to change things up.  Now, I don't have anything against this particular history choice, but Colton really enjoys history and wasn't feeling like he was getting enough out of it.  The fault probably lies a good bit with me, because even at this point in the year, I didn't have all parts of the program ready to go.  For example, I just now got his timeline made, so we haven't been added to that for each chapter; and I had not really been giving him any of the activities along the way because I didn't have time to review everything before he needed to move on to the next lesson.  So, again, nothing against MOH, but it just wasn't working for us at this time.  (But thanks, Jennifer, for loaning me the book.  At least I wasn't out any money on that.)  So we've switched to Sonlight.  Pricey - yes.  But I got most of my books used, so I saved well over $100 doing it that way.  If you aren't familiar with this curriculum, there are a couple of books that you use like textbooks, but then there are maybe 40 books to read that go along with the time period you are studying.  It could be a fictional book like Old Yeller or a biography like the one about Thomas Alva Edison.  (The course I chose was American History, in case you were wondering.)  Colton loves to read, so I think he will get a lot out of this program.

Eli's school work is coming right along.  So far he is following in his brother's footsteps as far as curriculum is concerned.  Like Colton at that age, though, his biggest hindrance is just getting past the fact of life that he HAS to do school.  When he cooperates, we fly through our work.  If he doesn't want to do school, it takes forever, and everyone is unhappy. Of course, at second grade he still needs a lot of my involvement.  Colton's fifth grade work needs me very little.  Oh, Colton gave me a surprise this week by telling me that he was enjoying writing paragraphs for grammar!  He had one "paragraph" that lasted for a page and a half because he was enjoying telling his story.  He is surprisingly good for his age at using transition words and sentence variety.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Introducing...

Okay, the title is a bit of a teaser.  I still can't post pictures, but I'm told I can post their names.  So, please welcome Milcho Thomas DeMoss and Vanessa Elizabeth DeMoss.  (Pictures to follow in a few weeks.)  Both of our bio boys have middle names that are from family.  Colton has "James" from my mom's grandfather, and Eli has "Robert" from Tim's mom's parents.  (Her dad was named Robert AND her mom's maiden name was Roberts!)  So in keeping with that family tradition, Milcho has gotten "Thomas" from a great-grandfather of Tim's, and Vanessa has gotten "Elizabeth" from my mom's mother.  (I know you feel better knowing all of that!)

We learned today that our Court Day yesterday apparently DID happen.  Milcho and Vanessa are officially our children.  A friend recently told me that on her court day (for a domestic adoption -- so, she was actually there), the judge told her that she was now more legal bound to her child than to her husband.  Imagine that!  Now, I'm really itching to go get them.  The court decree still has to be finalized (possibly next week), and then we should know for sure when we will travel.

We almost have their rooms ready.  The boys' room is basically done although I would still like to hang a few pictures.  Vanessa's room just needs the wall-to-wall curtain hung in front of the storage shelves, and I need to empty her closet.  Next we need to stock their closets.  I'm hoping we get updated clothing and shoe sizes very soon so we can go shopping.  I may have plenty of clothes for Milcho already unless Colton skipped a size from one fall to the next.  I've not yet finished getting rid of all of the yard sale stuff, so I've not yet moved everything out of the house and into the garage that I can.  (I just want a clean house!)  I will try to post pictures before we travel.  It's a little crowded, but I'm ultimately pleased with how it has turned out.

I know I've met a few bloggers who have already adopted from Bulgaria.  If you are still checking my blog, can you offer any advice?  I would be especially interested in any suggested recipes.  I may only have 3 or 4 weeks to acclimate their taste buds before they get slammed with Thanksgiving.  Poor kids!  Then again, what an opportunity to sample a lot of different foods!  I've already told my mom that I would try to fix a crockpot of some kind of soup they would like because I understand soup is either a very common dish or maybe they have it with almost every meal.

Finally, I noticed that my last post still included the I "Heart" Adoption promo by Show Hope.  Thanks to everyone who voted.  They didn't report the exact final tally, but the last totals I saw had us in 3rd place.  Not bad.  I never thought we knew enough people to make it to 1500, but I was glad to see that we hung right in there with everyone else.  It turns out they counted the hearts AND the likes (I think there was some confusion, so they just counted everything).  Even with that, we still didn't make it to 1500.  But since we were all being guinea pigs in this little promo, they graciously awarded us a bonus to our grants anyway.  As you can see by the thermometer on the right, we haven't quite reached our goal, so we certainly would never turn down a donation even at this point.  It has been amazing to watch God bring His plan to fulfillment.  Even if every dime doesn't come in before we go, we know that he is going to get it all covered.  We're just along for the ride.