Thursday, September 30, 2010

A broken door and a chance encounter

By the end of yesterday we felt as if we had really gained some ground in regards to bonding, communication and, for now, managing Andrew's tantrums. Then at about 12:30 last night, he began his nightly routine of waking up and getting out of his bed. We repeated everything that had worked before, but with no success.

In one last attempt, we laid him in his bed, told him it was time to sleep and shut the door. We heard him scream, get out of bed, pound the floor and then quiet. Success?!? Before we had a chance to exhale there was another scream and a crack. We ran and opened the door to see Andrew standing in shock with tiny glass shards in his hair. We looked at the back of the double paned, frosted glass door to see the inside pane shattered. Apparently pounding his fist into the floor was not dramatic enough for him, so he decided to use his head on the back of the door.

Andrew was not hurt in any way. He immediately realized what he had done and jumped into bed and lay still. We did not have to say a word.

This morning we woke up with knots in our stomachs. How much would this cost? Would anyone call the authorities on us? Are we screwing up our son?

We contacted our agencies in Bulgaria and the States; everything has been handled and tomorrow we will find out the cost of the damage. Our agency here in Bulgaria, as well as the landlord have told us not to worry and have been very supportive. They were all just happy Andrew was not hurt.

When we woke up, it was obvious that Andrew still carried some guilt. We reassured him that we love him and continued on with the day. We've read enough not to be surprised by this behavior, so we are not disappointed in any way. We love him as our own because he is our own. He is an amazing little boy and we are so blessed to have found him! He really is a joy to us and we can't wait to see him thrive even more at home. We are so proud of him and how well he has handled all the change.

The thought occurred to Aaron, "the father bears the offense of the rebellious son". What a picture of who our heavenly Father is and what He has done!! Suddenly the cost of the door just seemed so small and we were at peace.

This morning we walked back over to the US Embassy and picked up Andrew's passport and visa. We are done!!!

On the way back through the park we decided to go a longer way home to the apartment. We turned left and walked towards a woman and her son. She looked right at us and suddenly said, "Hello" in English. We were surprised and said, "Hello" back. She then pointed to Andrew and said, "We know him."

We looked at her in shock as she proceeded to explain that her husband and she had adopted the boy with her from the same orphanage. She recognized Andrew because he was out in the hallway nearly every time they went to visit their son. Next thing you know the two boys were playing and laughing as we talked. It was cold today so she invited us to head to an indoor playground with the two of them.

We then talked for another hour about our boys, the orphanage, good and bad issues we were dealing with. It was so amazing to have met up with her and encouraging to the both of us. She's actually from Bulgaria and her husband is from the UK and they are living here. He was working when we met so we arranged to have dinner together at a restaurant nearby tomorrow night. We are really looking forward to it!

Tomorrow will consist of packing up everything and probably a trip to the park before dinner out.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

U.S. Embassy Visit

Despite the rain we decided to walk through the park to get to our visa interview at the US Embassy. Our appointment was for 2:30 and we were told to arrive by 2:15. We left with plenty of time to spare and it was a good thing.

All morning long Andrew had been throwing temper tantrums over the smallest things we would ask him to do. Apparently he's feeling more comfortable with us. Just as we were about to leave he threw a fit over Jen trying to look at his belly. Five minutes away from the doors of the embassy Jen asked him to put on his hood because it was raining. At the apartment we can let him throw himself to the ground during a tantrum, but in the park it was wet and muddy.

During our time here we've decided it's best to just ignore the fits and remove him from the situation. So far that has worked pretty well since he now realizes that he's not getting any attention for his behavior. Over the course of the day the fits grew less intense and shorter in duration. After dinner we came home and were able to get him dressed in his pajamas and his teeth brushed with little trouble. When it was time to go to his bed, he went willingly without any resistance. He even asked Mommy to come.

We went out to eat for pizza at a local restaurant for dinner. Throughout the entire wait Andrew kept saying "Pizza" and would give us a huge smile. We had our first pizza with pickles, interesting combination. However, we're not ready for pizza with mayonnaise, ketchup or corn just yet.

The embassy interview was quick and painless. We were hoping to get a picture of Andrew outside the embassy. Fortunately we found out this was not permitted before we tried it. Who would of thought?

Tomorrow we pick up the visa and Saturday we get to go home. We're really missing the rest of the kids and can't wait for them to meet their brother in person.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Out and about

Yesterday we went back to the city. We visited the Zhenski Pazar Market and stopped at a few sights along the way. Note for future adoptive parents: At the far corner we found beautiful clay pottery for the best price. We discovered a little shop in the subway under the Presidency. It was there we found better prices on the hand carved wood items. Traditional clothing seemed to be cheaper at the Alexander Nevski Cathedral.

Andrew trekked with us again without complaint. At the end of the day he was completely worn out; however, bedtime was the last thing he wanted to do. We did our normal routine, but he woke up as we tried to sneak out of the room. Then the wailing began. We eventually got him to bed, but it did take some time and patience on our part. Here's to tag-team parenting!

Each morning he does end up in our bed between 5 and 6 A.M. and falls back to sleep for another 2-3 hours. This we don't mind because it does allow for bonding. We've just never been able to pull the all night sleep over with our children and actually wake up rested.

Today we had the Medical Exam. Good news was it was cheaper than expected and pretty much uneventful. Andrew was shy, but to our surprise he did not freak out. We've noticed he has a tendency to "shut down" with a blank stare when he doesn't like something. We could see him start to head in that direction but somehow he pulled out of it.

After this we returned to Zhenski Pazar Market. It wasn't so much for the shopping as it was for the fact that when we got home yesterday Jen forgot that we had wrapped the pottery in a sweatshirt. As she unpacked the backpack from the day the pottery smashed on the floor. So we returned to buy a new piece. It wasn't a big deal because the pottery is really inexpensive.

Jen is fighting a cold so when we got back to the apartment, she rested while Andrew and Aaron walked to the bank to exchange money. He does alright as long as one of us is with him. He actually enjoys taking trips to the curb to empty the trash with Daddy. He is adjusting well to us and is picking up on more English. He understands many phrases in English that we don't know the Bulgarian words for.

We've seen such a transformation with Andrew in less than a week. His fearfulness has diminished and he even walks with more confidence now. Earlier on he would only attempt to climb the play equipment halfway up. Today he was looking over his shoulder to see if we noticed him standing on the top without holding on. On one playground, he would run to the end of the plank, grab a bar and kick his feet out over a ladder. It is amazing watching what a difference the love and care of a family makes on a little boy's life within a few days.

Tomorrow we got to the U.S. Embassy for the visa interview. It's only a short walk through the park from our apartment. Then on Thursday we'll return to pick up the visa.

On a lighter note, yesterday Andrew was wearing some pants we had brought him that were a little big in the waist. All day long he was pulling on them to keep them up. At one point we were crossing a street at a crosswalk when we both felt him trying to pull his hands away. The light was about to turn red so we squeezed his hands telling him "ne, ne, ne". We kept him walking pulling him up while he was saying something to us in Bulgarian. When we reached the other side of the street we heard him giggling and looked down to see his pants around his ankles! Who knows how far we had been dragging him like that. We eventually figured out that he was saying pants in Bulgarian, but a different word than we were told.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Short post for a long day.

We can't really say much about today. Only that we were able to spend some time at the Zoo with someone that Andrew was familiar with for one last goodbye. They were both very close, and it was a mistake we would be willing to make again. Unfortunately, it set his attachment with us back a day, but it provided much needed closure for them. We are glad that it happened today and not later in our stay.

The past two nights Andrew woke up around 1 a.m. The first night he was visibly frightened and so we instinctively brought him into our bed.

The second night it was evident that he was just simply wanting to hang out. So we spent about an hour putting him back down to bed repeatedly as he would get back up and come in to our room. At first we took the time to love on him and reassure him that we were there since he was whimpering some and crying. As time progressed, we would tell him in Bulgarian "No, I love you, fall asleep, it's time for bed" and at this point there was no crying. Towards the end we just said "No. Go to bed". Finally, he just stayed in bed and fell asleep on his own. It was worth the time we put in for future nights of better sleep.

We'll see how tonight goes.

Bedtime tonight was a little easier. Still a struggle when it was time to put on pajamas, but after that things were much better.

No plans for tomorrow except to take it easy and enjoy our son.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Thru the streets of Sofia

As much as it killed us to do so, we finally broke down and entered a McDonald's. You really don't have much choice when your 4 year old starts holding himself doing the "pishka" dance in the middle of Sofia. Inside, the only difference we noticed was the cooler of Heineken's for sale on the counter. Outside was a book market we remembered from our previous trip so we stopped for an ice cream cone.

Today was one of the few days where we had absolutely nothing to do and nowhere to be. So with our Bulgarian phrase book in hand, we decided to venture into the city. Our goal was to make it to Aleksander Nevski Cathedral, barter for some souvenirs, order a meal from one of our favorite restaurants here, and take a trolley home. All without causing an international incident. We made it! Our only close call was when we passed in front of a political march of some sort.

Andrew did amazing. Its about 2 miles from our apartment to the cathedral and he walked the entire way, with only two stops. Not a single complaint or attitude. We walked about halfway back from the cathedral to the restaurant ( For this leg, Aaron carried Andrew most of the way. While in the restaurant, Andrew was also very well behaved. We decided we had worn him out enough, so we took a trolley back to the apartment.

It was quite an adventure for us trying to translate Cyrillic letters on street signs and matching them with Latin letters on our English map. It was also fun trying to speak Bulgarian in order to get around and make purchases. We were told on our first trip that you could get around Sofia pretty well knowing only English; however, we have not found that to be the case.

Bedtime was more of a struggle tonight. Andrew has caught on to our routine that pajamas go on right before bedtime. So tonight he did not want to put on his pajamas. He cried and through his tears informed us "neescom"(don't want). We won that battle, only to have him put on his sweatshirt, thinking that this would somehow prevent going to sleep. We took off his sweatshirt amidst much protest and carried him to bed while he screeched. We brought in a glow-stick and blanky bear in order to negotiate him laying down. It worked except for some sporadic whimpering. We brought in the laptop and lay with him as he fell asleep (only minutes again) to Franklin the Turtle overdubbed in Bulgarian.

One of the challenges we face is the balance between compassion for all the change in Andrew's life with the need for him to know boundaries for behavior. That becomes even more complex when both of us are out of our normal surroundings, not to mention a language barrier. So we ask God,"who gives generously to all without finding fault", for wisdom.

Friday, September 24, 2010

On our own

When we left the orphanage yesterday, they told us that Andrew typically wakes up around 6:30am. Yikes!! So we were pleasantly surprised when at 8am this morning Andrew walked into our room with a big smile on his face. Apparently an eventful day with no nap completely wore him out.

He seemed completely relaxed around us today and gave no indication that he wanted to go back to the orphanage. Jen made eggs and toast for us this morning, but again Andrew was only interested in a banana. In the moment Jen was inspired with some divine wisdom and told him that he could have more juice if he would take a bite of egg. That settled it and he finished his eggs.

We took a long walk in the park this morning. We stopped at a few play areas but finally rested in a big field. We brought toys and played until we were hungry.

We came back for lunch. Andrew scarfed his sandwich and we made another attempt at a nap for him. No go. So we tried having some chill time with a video. That lasted for about 2 seconds. We are so thankful to have a week alone with him to bond before we return home. However, that's one week alone with him. It's been a few years since we've been parents of one. At home the kids can keep each other entertained. Here, its just us and we are out of shape for this line of work.

Relief came in the form of a Skype call from the kids at home. Its amazing to see them connect with him online. He smiles, responds and interacts with them more than anyone else he's seen.

After the call we went for another walk in the park. At our first stop in a play area, Andrew climbed to the top of a piece of play equipment and called out "Mama!" for Jen to see. THE highlight of her day.

Its been amazing to see Andrew's progression even after just a short time with us. He has always been incredibly cautious and not very sure-footed. Even at the end of the first visit, Aaron could barely pick him up without it completely overwhelming him. This afternoon he was running and jumping all over the park. Aaron was rough housing with him and even throwing him up in the air( reasonably of course, as all Dads do ). Yesterday and this morning he would not walk with us near water, even while holding our hands. This afternoon he wanted to stop at a bridge and throw sticks in a creek (his idea).

We came home late for dinner, but Jen cooked some chicken. Some trouble with eating but that may have been due to the granola bar in the park to tie him over and the glass of milk he guzzled as Aaron was setting the table.

Bedtime went well. Andrew cried as Jen sat down on the bed with him and rubbed his back. Aaron stroked his forehead as he fell asleep within minutes between wimpers with another glow stick and blanky bear in his hand.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

We Have Our Boy!!!

While our travel to Bulgaria was uneventful, it was uncomfortable. After 24 hours of travelling, we arrived in Sofia running only on the cat-naps we were able to get in during our trek across the Atlantic. We forced ourselves to stay up until 8pm local time in order to get a good night's rest before our first full day with Andrew. However, our systems were so out of sync that we still ended up waking up regularly throughout the night.

We missed our alarm and waking up an hour later, we began frantically getting ready.

We had arranged to have a "diaper donation" to be delivered this morning. When we arrived the delivery was waiting with a bill for over $100 what we had purchased. Fortunately, our agency was able to get the whole thing straightened out.

Meanwhile the workers had brought out Andrew. He recognized us immediately and we began getting reacquainted. Inside he was changed into clothes we had brought for him. The orphanage workers had prepared a backpack for him to take with us. It included the photo album we brought him in April, some toys and a few pictures of him during his time there. Andrew helped us hand out gift bags to the workers, doctors and directors. One doctor actually had gifts for us. A hand stitched wall hanging, a pillow case for Andrew, an authentic Bulgarian apron and another hand stitched wall hanging made by her mother 70 years ago!

Leaving was not nearly as dramatic as we had pictured it, only a few tears. We do know that one worker that he was especially close to chose not to come today out of fear that it would just be to difficult to take for the both of them.

We took a cab from the orphanage to the passport office. He hopped in the cab with a huge smile, and even asked to remove his back pack so he could hold it like we were. He behaved perfectly for us at the passport office which consisted of at least an hour of standing in line.

We left there and walked a short distance to play at a nearby park.

Then our first meal together at Santor's Pizza! Here again, he behaved perfectly. He sat still in his seat, and throughout the meal he would copy everything we did. It seems that if he gets something in his mind, he has no reservations about trying if for himself and asking permission later (i.e. drinking with out a straw, using a fork, pouring water from the bottle into his glass). He devoured two slices and we were out the door.

Then another cab ride. By this time we were noticing signs of fatigue. It was about the time for his scheduled nap. So we were actually trying to keep him awake so we could put him down at our apartment and avoid him falling asleep and awaking having only had a power nap.

Apparently, between leaving the orphanage, exhaustion, heat, two slices of pizza and the general stress of the morning he had had all he could take and proceeded to throw up ( I mean THROW UP!) in the back seat of the taxi. Twice. The driver quickly pulled over and we got Andrew out of the car and began to clean him up. We decided we were close enough to walk the rest of the way so after cleaning the back seat, paying the driver 3 times the cost of the ride to appease him, we stripped Andrew of his vomit soaked pants and walked the rest of the way back to our apartment through the streets of Sofia with our new, naked son ( shirt, diaper, shoes, and socks up to his knees ).

When we got back to the apartment, we tried to give Andrew a nap. However when he saw Jen shut the blinds, he had panic in his eyes and backed out of the room mumbling something.

He never got his nap, but we spent the rest of the afternoon playing indoors and introducing him to his family via Skype. It was evident he was still in shock. Although there was a moment when he loosened up while talking with his siblings. He never spoke to them, but he did interact showing them a book, smiling and even trying to throw a ball to them.

Our wonderful translator, Maria stayed with us until 4:30 to help with the adjustments. There were a couple of moments with a few tears as reality set in. He allowed us to pick him up and comfort him. At one point he began repeating English as we read through a picture book.

We made dinner at home to avoid any more excitement. At dinner he pushed his plate of pasta and sauce away only to eat a piece of Jen's home made bread, a banana and some cheese.

We walked to the store to pick up a few items and finished the day with him falling asleep in his bed, curled up between the two of us with his new glow-stick bracelet in one hand and his blanky bear in the other watching Franklin the Turtle on the laptop.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


We just got word yesterday of some possible travel dates, the earliest being this Tuesday, Sept. 22nd. So, we decided not to wait another moment longer. We bought our tickets today and will be flying out this Tuesday, Sept. 21st. We will bring Andrew out of the orphanage on Thursday, Sept. 23rd. We are so ready to bring him home.

Every year we take a family vacation to Hilton Head Island the first week in October. It's our favorite trip as a family. This year all available funds were spent on two trips to Bulgaria instead. So we promised the kids we would take a long weekend. As we debated which dates we would travel, we soon realized that we would not be able to make the long weekend to HHI. As we gently broke the news to our children, their immediate response was "WHO CARES!!! We want our brother home!" We are so proud of them. Our entire journey has been a family endeavor and we could not, nor would we have done any of this without all of them. We'll write more on that in a later post.

Our first trip came upon us suddenly and with a weeks notice we were scrambling to have everything in place. We knew this trip was coming so over the past 5 months we have been slowly collecting items we would need for this trip (toys, clothes, travel items, etc.). That being said, a week to get ready is still just a week and we again are scrambling to make sure everything's in place. From mowing the lawn, to arranging rides for the kids, to setting up skype on our home computer -we are busy.

This week our oldest daughter and (now)oldest son each have birthdays. Our large family party for both will have to be postponed. In the meantime we're having two, much smaller birthday/family night parties before we leave. Complete with milkshakes, root beer floats, games, and finishing Prince Caspian, they're sure to be fabulous!

Since our last post God has provided $7,090. We are still needing another$3800, but for God there's no time crunch. We are continually reminding ourselves of all that He's done in the past. Last trip the final $1200 didn't arrive until 2 days before we left. He is faithful to complete what He started, and we'll rest in that. We are currently waiting to hear from an adoption grant that we've applied for. Ironically, we'll hear from them no later than the 21st, the day we fly out. God's funny.

We can't wait to be able to share Andrew with all of you!! Thank you for your prayers, encouragement and support. There has been a tangible grace on our family at every step.