Monday, November 7, 2011

Over a year home

We've been meaning to update the blog since Gotcha Day, September 23rd. 

We have been keeping busy.  Jen has been diligent homeschooling the kids.  We did not have intentions of doing school with Andrew this year.  He still seems to be a little behind in his language and we thought it might be too much.  However, Andrew had other plans for himself.  He wants to do whatever his siblings do, not to mention, he is self motivated.  So, Jen quickly threw together a few things. 

So far, Andrew has learned all his shapes (even ones his older siblings didn't know), he recognizes numbers up to 10 and can count to 39 with a little help, plus he begged to learn how to write his own name.  Now he knows the names of the letters in his name too, plus "c" for Cora, "r" for Rachel, "t" for Tobin and "h" for Haley.  Andrew knows his colors too and loves to color. 

His favorite part of the day is "Jesus Time".  The first half hour to hour of every school day is started with some quiet time to pray and read and draw with Jesus.  Jen prays a small prayer to start and then everyone spends time with Jesus either by reading the Bible (the girls who can read) or by drawing pictures (the boys).  When everyone is done with that they all take a turn praying.  Andrew asks most nights if we'll have "Jesus Time" when we wake up.  He loves to pray.  All he knows of prayer now is "thanky for...." and then he fills it in with just about anything.  Most of the time it's "thanky for church, for daddy work, for van, for house..."  Every now and again it's "thanky for Tobin bleed" after Tobin gets hurt.  I guess he knows better than the rest of us how to be thankful in all things.

One of the things we've realized over the past year is just how much we've missed with him.  It's mostly the little things in training that we don't think of.  Like how its not appropriate to write on cars with rocks (No really. Its a good thing Aaron works in auto restoration.).  Of course we also see it in his understanding about who Jesus is. 

Although it was encouraging this past week ; Jen told Andrew to go sit on his bed when he was misbehaving during school.  She was going to deal with him as soon as she could get the others started on their work.  She heard talking in his room and had the other kids keep quiet so she could listen.  Jen heard him talking to Jesus and saying Amen.  He then yelled out, "Mommy, I'm all done."  His attitude had changed.
Andrew does not remember much prior to being with us.  He thinks we were there in Bulgaria with him in the orphanage.  He really does not remember much from there other than what he sees in pictures.  We ask questions, but haven't gotten much out of him.  The most he's remembered is "going downstairs with a small mug with black in it with the Doctor".  He remembered this one night while we were eating soup and there happened to be a coffee mug on the table at the same time.  So, as you can see we haven't gotten much out of him.

Andrew has had one minor cold for a short couple of days since being home.  We have had no issues with his hydrocephalus.  He is a healthy boy.  He is growing in height, but not weight.  He eats well and loves fruits and vegetables the most.  His favorite foods are tomatoes and apples.  We do not eat fast food very often, but he doesn't like it when we do.  Although he does love candy, cookies and soda.

Andrew was potty trained when he came home and has stayed that way.  For several months he wore diapers at night, but once the box ran out, he wanted to be a big boy like Tobin.  He wet at night quite a bit in the beginning and we would not make a big deal of it and just wash the sheets a lot.  We woke him up every night, but he'd still wet.  Then he seemed to stay dry for quite some time and we thought we were in the clear.  It wasn't too long and he was wetting again. We know he's only 5 and that boys do tend to wet at this age, so we don't make a big deal of it and still wake him once before we go to bed.  Plus he never seemed that bothered by it. However, we do believe there may be some connection to his emotional state.  We have noticed that he wets the most when he seems to have several days in a row with a little bit of attitude or when there has been several changes in our schedule.  Over the last month he has started to get upset about it and tells us he is sad when his bed is not made because the sheets are in the wash.

Andrew is occasionally scared people will get him.  We let him know we are his mommy and daddy and will take care of him and keep him safe.  One night Jen told him that if somebody tried to come and get him that daddy would fight him.  He seemed very content with that answer.  If he says somebody might get him we ask him what will happen and he says, "Daddy fight them."  He still doesn't like to be in bed without Tobin in the room, so when Tobin comes out to tell us something or go potty, Andrew comes out of the room as well if he's awake. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Dear Gift of Adoption: 2011

We were blessed with 3 different grants through our adoption journey. One was from our church Grace Covenant Fellowship, one from Showhope and another from Gift of Adoption. The video was put together by Gift of Adoption in order for them to raise money for future grants. Our story is the last one. Enjoy!!!

This month is Gotcha month and it is amazing to think that it has almost been a year since Andrew left the doors of the orphanage forever.  Andrew is doing so well.  We have had such tangible moments of seeing his attachment. 

We had a dinner to go to in August, but none of our family was available to watch the kids.  Up until that point we have only allowed family to watch Andrew.  We ended up having a friend watch the kids.  The older 4 knew her, but she was a stranger to Andrew. 

We explained as best we could to him who was watching him and how we'd be home while he was sleeping.  He didn't seem to mind.  We weren't sure how he would react and thought that he might try to get really cute with her, sit in her lap and that there could be a bit of manipulation. 

There had also been a few times in the month before where Andrew would go get something that wasn't his without asking and decide it was his to play with.  So obviously we were concerned that he may try and pull something while we were out.

We arrived home and came in to the living room.  Immediately Andrew came over and sat down right next to her.  Then Jen picked him up to show Andrew something and he clung to her and wouldn't let go.  Our friend said he did totally fine and didn't do either of what we thought.

Just to help explain what is so amazing about this night, Andrew is not a cuddly kid.  He lets us hug him and kiss him, but he never iniates affection.  If we're watching a movie and try to cuddle him he will shrug you off.  A few days before this night Jen was talking about how she really could use some affection from our son iniated by him.  Here it was.  God knew what she needed and he gave it to her. 

The next night Jen went out before bed time, so Aaron put the kids to bed without her and Andrew cried for mommy.  He has never done that before.

Since that week Andrew has been very cuddly.  He will walk up to one of us and just lean on us looking for love.  He asks to be picked up and wants to be in our laps cuddling while being read to.  We're thanking God for all He has done.  It is so wonderful to see your child feel more and more safe and more and more a part of the family.

A few weeks later Jen was putting some old pictures on Shutterfly.  They were from 2009 before Andrew was home or known.  Whenever he sees pictures of the 4 other kids without him he asks where he is.  We always explain to him that he was in Bulgaria and we were trying to find him.  That he was in another mommy's belly and how she couldn't take care of him, but that God brought us to him. 

This time he looked at Jen and said,"I don't want to do that again."  Jen understood what he meant.  Then he said, "I don't want to go there again," meaning the orphanage.  She assured him he would never go there again.  This was another big change.  Usually he sees pictures from Bulgaria and says that he wants to go there, but apparently those days are over.  He now wants to be here with his family.

It is amazing to think about how our biological children go through these same phases, but of course they're suttle and we hardly notice them.  With Andrew we're able to see drastic changes, literally within a day's time, and it fill our hearts with joy.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Referral picture and some extras

Here is our only baby picture (left) of Andrew given to us with about 15 other pictures from the orphanage.  The picture on the right is our first glimse of Andrew (our referral picture).  What a precious little boy, our son.  We saw the life in him through his eyes and knew he was ours at first glance.

We used An Open Door Adoption Agency here in Georgia.  We were super impressed with this agency as we have stated numerous times.  We had an opportunity to write up a testimonial for their website and wanted to share it.  To see our testimonial click here (We're the second one down under Andrew).

Family National Association is the Bulgarian side to our adoption agency.  Click here to see their homepage.  If you scroll to the bottom you will see our pictures on their home page.  Click on Photos/Reviews at the top of the page to read our review (first one under Review for USA)  as well as see our pictures (under Photos for USA).  We were very impressed with this agency.  They also have a section listing special needs children that they have access to written in English.  A long way down on the list is the number for our son and next to it is written ADOPTED along with many others.  It brings joy to our heart to see this.

Last, but not least, here is some fun video our boys.  They love music and play their guitars most every day.  By the way, Andrew is singing to God and saying "Send your power".  Yes, it sounds like shampoo, but we hear it often.  Some days it is easier to understand than others.  This is Andrew's favorite song to sing.  He made it up one day while he and Tobin were playing "worship".

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Summer Events and Birthday Boy!!!

Friday, July 15th was Andrew's 5th birthday. It was his first birthday home with his forever family. After being home about 4 months and watching as others in the family had birthdays, he's been counting down until it was his. Finally the day arrived. We had one family over to celebrate on the actual day since some of our family is out of town and we won't have a big family party until later in the month.

On our Gotcha Day, we were given about 15 pictures of Andrew. Some of them included pictures of his 2nd, 3rd and 4th birthdays. His hair is always done crazy in these pictures. We were told that there was one woman who really liked his hair that way, so they would do it up for his birthdays. We call it "crazy hair" when we look at the pictures with him. So, when his day finally came he asked for "crazy hair" and we were more than willing to accommodate.

It has been almost 10 months since we brought Andrew out of the orphanage. Since the last time we blogged he has grown another inch, but only gained a half of pound if that. So, our big 5 year old is now 42 1/2" tall and about 32.6 lbs. He's only about 4 lbs. lighter than our smallest at 5 years old. So, he's definitely a Santor.

We just had our post placement this week. Our caseworker is heading to Latvia and had to get this done in time to send it off to Bulgaria for translation. Since it will be one year the end of September.

We did a lot of travelling the month of June. Our first weekend was spent with Aaron's family in Tybee Island for a family reunion while his sister was here for her R&R (she's deployed with the army). We spent the weekend with all 13 cousins on Aaron's side. The oldest being Cora at 10. Yep, a lot of little ones. Andrew really loves his cousins and aunts and uncles.

His first trip to the ocean was back in November '10 right after we got him home. He tripped and fell just as an inch of water washed up around him. Overwhelmed, he shrieked until we picked him up. The water this time at Tybee was stronger. Andrew went right in the water and played around in it for quite a while. We have a brave little guy with hardly any fears.

The following weekend we headed up to NY and MA to visit our families. Another round of seeing grandparents, great grandparents (there are 6 of them), aunts, uncles and more cousins (on Jen's side). Usually we drive through the night and while Andrew is no longer vomiting on car rides, he still seems a bit uneasy through the night. He yells, cries and kicks all in his sleep while we drive. However, he did not do any of it this trip. It is so exciting to see how well he is attaching and adjusting just in these little things.

While we were in NY, Jen's cousin generously offered to take the kids rock climbing. We all had a great time and it was yet another new adventure for Andrew. He didn't quite get the hang (pun intended) of climbing without clinging to the rope but he had a blast asking "Please more." He kept wanting to go higher. He did great until we asked him to rappel back down. He took a few steps back and panicked. He clung to the rope with both hands. More shrieking. Now all he could scream was "Please go home!" We eventually worked him down, and of course he immediately wanted to go back up.

We were gone for about 10 days and the following weekend went on a camping trip. It was Andrew's first time, but he looked like such a pro. All the kids like to walk around in the woods at night with their flashlights. It's kids only and they call it a "night hike". Well, Andrew joined right in. At home he seems a little afraid of the dark. He won't go to the bathroom in our room if the lights are out and he doesn't like to go to bed unless Tobin is in there and the closet light is on. Here in the woods he didn't seem to notice the dark, even when we put the kids in the tent to go to bed without us.

We were able to go swimming at the lake as well. This is the only place we've seen him be somewhat afraid of water. He loves the pool whether he can reach the bottom or not. The ocean was no big deal. Playing in the river was a blast. He begs for a bath most every day and pours buckets of water over his head and has learned to hold his breath underwater. The only thing we can figure is that it was murky lake water and he couldn't see the bottom.

The next weekend was the 4th of July, so we headed up to Helen, GA. We spent the entire day there going tubing down the Chattahoochee River, grilling out, playing in the river and then watching the fireworks. Again, all firsts for Andrew. He absolutely loved tubing. We weren't sure what he'd do during the fireworks. There was a big bang and then the sky was lit up. Andrew turned around, looked at Aaron and said,"This is fun." He had a huge grin on his face throughout the rest of the display.

Yes, that was a whirlwind and we didn't plan it that way. We all survived and had so much fun as a family. We did have a little bit of re-adjusting to do with Andrew after being away from home and having so many new things and people around, but it never takes long. He just gets a little bit of attitude, disobedience rises up a little more than usual and he becomes very independent, not wanting mommy's or daddy's help. Nobody else notices it besides us. Just a little bit of time holding mommy's or daddy's hand or sitting in one of our laps for a short time usually does the trick.

We love our kids!! It is so amazing still that Andrew is home with us!! We are so thankful to God that He truly handpicked Andrew for our family.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Recent video of Andrew

We finally figured out how to upload video.

Yes, this is how crazy life is at our house most of the time.

Oh, Andrew is the one in the red pajamas.


Friday, May 13, 2011

The last few months

We finally did go to the neurologist at the end of March to have them tell us more about Andrew's hydrocephalus. We headed down to Atlanta with him and had x-rays and a CT scan done. Andrew was quite the trooper. Immediately after, we went over to the neurologist's office for a consultation. He really didn't give us any new information. He did, however, confirm that Andrew has the mildest form of hydrocephalus. The shunt and all were in place (not quite where he would put it, but each neurologist has their ideal). We will need to lengthen the tubing that drains the extra spinal fluid from his brain. He has some extra tubing in his abdominal cavity, but not enough to get him into adulthood. So, in the next 2 -3 years Andrew will have to have surgery for that. The doctor said he likes to just replace the tubing so it won't become calcified. This means they will make a small incision at the base of his neck where the valve for the shunt is and another one near his bellybutton in order to take out the old tubing and replace it with a new one. This is a simple procedure, considering what more could be needed, and we are grateful this is all that will need to be done.

We never did write anything about Andrew's size. He came home a few months after he turned 4 wearing size 4 clothes. He was 30 lbs and 39 1/2" tall. As of March (6 months home) he only weighed 32 lbs. and was 41 1/2" tall. He has, however, started to wear size 5 tops. We cannot get him to grow any quicker.

We have had 2 post placements so far. Our caseworker, Cathy at An Open Door is amazing. She asks questions, but it's not intimidating at all. We give her the photos required and any other documents needed. I think we get talking so much she ends up being here longer than she is supposed to. She's been with us since we made the switch to Open Door and has been an encouragement along the way. We love having her come and do the visits because she was such a part of the process of bringing Andrew home and now she gets to see the end result of her working with us. Don't know if we mentioned it already, but she went out of her way to meet us at the airport for Andrew's homecoming. We had not met prior because their office is several hours away and we had done our home study with another agency. It meant so much to us for her to be there and show her support.

We received about 15 pages of documents in Bulgarian from the orphanage the day we took Andrew out. We have been wanting to translate them even though we knew it would mostly be the same information we already had. Finally we had some money and found a woman who lives in the states now (but lived in Bulgaria most of her life) who was willing to translate them for a reasonable fee. As we expected, most of the information was more of what we already knew; however, one document listed some of Andrew's firsts. Just this document alone was worth the money we spent. We now know when he first rolled over from his back to his tummy and when he first rolled over from his tummy to his back. We also know when he first sat up assisted and not assisted and when he first walked assisted and not assisted. What a treasure!!

Another fun little piece of information we found out was his blood type. Things seem to be in neat little packages for us. The girls and I have the same blood type and Aaron and Tobin have the same blood type. We joked about how Andrew will probably have the same blood type as the boys and sure enough he does. Not a big deal to most people, but significant to us and apparently God figured it was too. It's just so crazy to see how God totally knew who our son was and didn't leave out even the simplest of details to make him feel more a part.

It took over 6 months, but we have finally adjusted to being parents of 5 kids. Things are running a lot smoother now and we are more able to enjoy time with all of our kids.

Andrew has been home for 8 months now and is doing so well. As soon as we can figure out how to upload videos we will post some.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

April 26th

It was exactly 3 years ago yesterday that we first made the decision to adopt, and exactly one year ago yesterday that we met Andrew for the first time.

We went back and reread our blog entry from the day we met Andrew. It's funny the things you remember, and the things you forget. We are so thankful that we took the time to write out the details of that moment. It is amazing to see how different we were even then, and how God's grace and provision have changed us forever.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Odds and Ends We've Been Meaning to Write About

Seeking Counsel

We are so thankful to have a church family that supported us in our adoption. There are several families that have adopted as well. A couple months before we travelled to pick up Andrew we took one couple out to dinner and gave them total freedom to "wreck" all our false expectations about bringing an adopted child into our home. "The wounds of a friend are faithful" and we trusted their input completely. They were very encouraging and even gave us articles to read concerning attachment and other adoption related issues. It is such a blessing to have people like this in our lives.

Home School

One piece of advice that was offered was to lower our expectations for home-schooling the other children when Andrew came home. Initially we shut down school for several weeks. We gradually worked our way back on track but still we have drastically downsized the amount of material covered. It has been a juggling act with 4 kids in 4 different grades and a 4 year old looking for something to do. When he sees the others get their books out, he grabs his notebook and crayons saying "Andrew school?" He is not mischievous and into things, but he does get bored and interrupts. Many times throughout the day Jen hears, "Andrew hungry", "Andrew color" or some other jibberish just wanting to be heard.


We can see his frustration with the language, as many times he will just blurt out made up words just to be a part of the conversation. He will even call someone's name just to get their attention but then just says "Um, um, um" His big achievement around New Year's was that he began speaking in sentences. It all started with us showing pictures to the grandparents and suddenly we heard Andrew say, "This is Cora, this is Rachel" as he pointed to each person in the picture.

Just in the last few weeks he's begun replacing his name with "I" or "Me". Although many times he still speaks in the third person.


Just after Christmas we travelled 18hrs to Massachusetts and New York to visit extended family that had not yet met Andrew. We were thrilled not to have to deal with his anxiety vomiting in the back seat. He seems now to understand that we will always return home. It looks as if that phase has passed.


Andrew did have some major tooth decay, most of which was not too noticeable. However, the dentist did feel that it would be good to fill them to avoid future pain since he will have some of the teeth for another 5-6 years. His first visit went well and the dentist was able to fill a few teeth in one quarter of his mouth. Unfortunately, on the second visit, Andrew remembered the previous visit too well and wasn't able to sit still knowing what was coming.

Early February, we took him to be sedated in order to have the remainder of his teeth filled. Jen held him while they sedated him and then had to wait in the other room for 2hrs. They called her when he began to come to. An assistant quickly carried Andrew to the van, handed her a sheet of instructions and sent them on their way. It was one awful hour long ride home with Andrew screaming and flailing as much as the seatbelt would allow. An hour after being home, the sedatives were still making it hard for him to keep his balance. He had a little pain in his teeth at dinner and breakfast the next morning, but after that our little trooper acted like nothing ever happened.


Andrew finally visited the pediatrician in January. She didn't have much to say. All his blood work looked good. He did need to catch up on a few shots which meant 3 in January and 4 more last week. He didn't like them at all and screamed quite a bit, but quieted down before we left the office. Again, he's a trooper and didn't act like anything was wrong after we left. We did assure him that he would not have anymore shots for a long time. Now when someone says "doctor", Andrew says, "no more shots". The big thing we're waiting on is a visit with a neurologist to see what they think stateside about Andrew's hydrocephalus. Our pediatrician's office got a visit set up for us in Atlanta on the 28th of this month. We'll keep you posted.


It has been almost 6 months since we took Andrew out of the orphanage for good. He is adjusting so well and is definitely attached to us. However, we have only gone out and left him with Jen's sisters a couple of times for a couple of hours. We still do not send him to Sunday school class and don't plan on it until the Fall. He turns 5 in the summer and can go to class with his siblings in September when they switch out the classes.

Maybe we're over protective, but we can still see a change in his attitude towards us when we have left him or even when we have large gatherings. We even noticed a little attitude in him during church on Sunday mornings if we didn't hold his hand coming into the building. These attitudes were extremely mild and not noticeable to others, but we could sense them. For the time being we feel that it is beneficial for him to stick with mommy and daddy. We were the same way with all the others their first year of life, so why do it any differently for Andrew.


Andrew came potty trained. What a huge blessing!!! However, he does wear a diaper at night. Somehow he can sleep through anything and doesn't wake up to use the potty. We even have to have him in a diaper for car rides over a couple of hours because there is a good chance he will fall asleep and wet. We have been prepping him that when he turns 5 and stays dry all night he won't have to wear diapers anymore. He gets so excited, especially when you tell him that he'll be like Tobin and will be able to wear underwear to bed. Aaron's big chant that the kids still use today, "No more diapers, pee pee on the potty!!!!!" worked for the other 4. We'll keep you posted.

Prepping the kids

Before leaving to bring Andrew home we sat down with the kids and talked about what life might look like with a new brother. We told them for a season everything we did would revolve around Andrew and bringing him into our family. He would have to adapt to us as well, which would take time. We told them that they may feel neglected at times but we encouraged them to talk to us about it. At the same time we as parents saw this as a great opportunity to walk alongside our children and help them "consider others better than [themselves]"Phillipians 2:3

We went out to eat one night and a woman asked our daughter, Rachel, if the boys were twins. Without missing a beat she replied, "No, they're 10 months apart." The look on her face was priceless. She then asked if they were all siblings. Again Rachel matter of factly said,"Yes." Now her husband had a look."How do you manage?" he asked. We told him that somedays we don't.

What impresses us is that it never occurs to our children to mention that Andrew has been adopted.

We also explained to the kids that at first, Andrew would not be disciplined the same and it might appear to them as if he were getting away with everything. We told them that discipline would change as our relationship with Andrew grew. Today Andrew is "loved "to the same measure as his older siblings.


A tiny tidbit that worked for us concerning the shoe issue with most adopted children: Andrew wanted his shoes on all the time, which wasn't a problem in Bulgaria. However, we do not wear shoes in our house. Knowing this might be a problem, we bought Andrew slippers as soon as we got home. This way he could have inside and outside shoes. It worked! It actually worked so well that within a matter of days he didn't even bother to wear his slippers and went stocking footed around the house. We don't know if it will work for others, but figured we would make mention of it anyway.

I love you

For the first few weeks of bringing Andrew home we would say, "obicham te" and he would respond back "obicham te". After that we started to say "I love you" and he would respond back with something that sort of sounded like "I love you". While this was amazing and brought joy to our hearts this past week we cannot express the new emotions that came when Andrew said on his own, without prompting, "I love you". This just happened last week when one night he said it to Jen and the next night to Aaron. The third night at dinner, again without prompting, and having nothing to do with the converstaion he said, "I love mommy, daddy."

We love our son more than words can express and are so thankful to God for bringing him into our family.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sofia - The History of Europe | София - Историята на Европа

Here is a glimpse of the capital city, Sofia in Bulgaria. This is where our son Andrew's orphanage was located. We were able to see all but one of the buildings in this video as well as many others. Enjoy!!!!