Monday, March 8, 2010

There's No Place Like Home

Home sweet home! I arrived home around midnight on Saturday. Richard met me at the airport and, after a LONG day of traveling, what a welcome surprise to walk into a beautifully clean house full of peacefully sleeping children! My husband is such a gift!

My last visit with Alayna was a good one. We looked through pictures and went over names and faces again, drew more pictures and talked about when I would return to bring her home. During our Thursday afternoon visit Alayna asked if I would visit her on Saturday. I explained to her that I had to return home on Saturday, but that I would come back for her soon. She told me that she would cry when I left. It broke my heart! Toni explained to her that we would have to complete a few more documents before I could return to bring her home, but that we would work fast so that she could come home soon. To help quantify the time, Toni told her that, once she had finished first grade, I would return for her.

I left her on Friday with lots of hugs and kisses, her photo album, her bear, and a promise that I would return for her as quickly as possible. I already miss her terribly! Fortunately, the deep longing to return for my girls has motivated me into getting this next round of paperwork and approvals done as quickly as I possibly can.

My I800 with supporting documentation is ready to go and will be mailed first thing tomorrow morning! I am praying that the approval will be swift! Once the approval is issued it will be wired to the US Embassy in Sofia who will issue a letter to the Ministry of Justice stating that we may proceed with the adoption. More signatures are needed from the Minister after which our case will then enter the courts and a judge and a court date will be assigned. Once the adoption has been declared final in court, we will be able to proceed with obtaining new birth certificates and passports and Richard and I will travel to pick the girls up. On average, this next phase takes 3-5 months to complete. We are hoping that we will be able to return to bring them home by the beginning of June.

I promised videos once I returned home so here is the first installment! I accidentally uploaded both Alayna and Lily's videos into the same montage so you will have to watch the entire video to see both girls! All of the videos I have of Alayna are of her singing. This girls LOVES to sing (and she loved to watch her videos and sing along after I recorded them). Lily's videos generally consist of her giving me the stink face and then ignoring me (she LOVED operating the camera but didn't care much for being the subject)! I hope you enjoy my little ladies as much as I do!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Homecoming #1

Love reckons hours for months, and days for years; and every little absence is an age. ~John Dryden

The Kids and I (mainly I) spent the day cleaning up the house. It's 7:15, the kids are fed, in bed, the dishes are done, the laundry is folded, the floors cleaned and just for good measure the cars are washed.

Val should be touching down in Dayton four hours from now and we're very excited to have her home. The kids missed their mother and I missed my wife.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Back Home.

***Written By Richard***

Well, the trip is almost over and right now Val is spending her last sleep-filled hours in Sofia. Everyone's heard a lot about what's been going on over in Bulgaria but while Val's been on her advendute, I've been enjoying the other and of the adventure back here at home.

Over the two weeks since Val left we've been staying busy. We've had bedtimes, quiet times, and mealtimes. We've had one week of work, and one week in training. We've had a few illnesses and we even spent the evening in the ER collecting a few stitches.

Our good friend Keely has been invaluable in watching the kids during the day while I've been at work and in training. I'd also like to thank the friends and parents who took time out of their busy schedules to check in with Val and I. A thank you also goes to our friends who provided meals on several occasions, such a small act meant so much to me.

So as I get ready to head to bed tonight, here are some pictures I wanted to share from the past two weeks:

This is how most of the kids spent the first week. They were all very tired from a tumultuous week before Val left and it took them a week to recover and get back into better shape.

The most famous incident of the past two weeks. Lukas was playing during naptime and ended up getting in a fight with a desk. Needless to say, he lost. 10 Stitches at the ER.

Jacob showing off the knit cap that Keely made for him.

Evan letting me know what he thinks of my cooking.

Joshua, just being adorable.

Maren with her best friend. Note the knit cap with the cute little flower.

Lukas (pre-stitches) show off his moves.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


This morning we explained to Alayna that I will be her mommy. She was thrilled and we all breathed a sigh of relief! She immediately started calling me mama and, this morning, while we were watching a Sesame Street DVD, she gave me two HUGE hugs! Again, I melted! The biggest indicator of her acceptance of having a mama and joining our family came when we returned for the afternoon visit. She had drawn me another picture. In this picture there were two houses, connected by a road. One was hers (and Baba Marta's!) and one mine. She had also colored and completed a maze where a little girl was walking through a field of flowers to her house where her mama was waiting. I asked Alayna if the little girl was her and she was coming home to mama. She said yes :-)

Alayna's picture

Finding her way home to Mama!

Although she has always been relatively comfortable with Toni and I, today she really came out of her shell. She sat on my lap, gave me hugs and always sat right next to me whenever we were playing. She sang for us again (she loves for me to record her singing and to watch herself when she is done. . .I promise to share once I am home) and she even showed us a little of her goofy side! She had us all doubled over in laughter many times!

This afternoon, at her request, we played beauty shop! I brought hair clips, a child-sized makeup kit and some nail polish (thank goodness for Toni's brother Alex who ran to the store during lunch and picked these things up for me!) and we did each other's hair, makeup and nails. We also completed a few more necklaces and bracelets for several of her friends (who are also very excited that Alayna has a mama. . .every time they see her they ask what she and mama are doing). Maren is going to be in heaven having a sister who will love doing all of these things with her.

Alayna, skillfully applying her green eye shadow!

Mommy doing Alayna's nails

Alayna doing mommy's nails!

My turn for eyeshadow! Bright blue!

"This is great!" Alayna giving her thumbs up!

She continues to amaze me with how smart she is! Yesterday morning I showed her how to spell her name in English and she copied it beautifully. Today, she wrote it by herself without having to look! Wow! This girl is one smart cookie!

Alayna is such and amazing girl! It is going to be so hard to leave her on Friday, but I know that, once I am home, I will finally be able to start the final steps to bring my girls home!

Mommy and Alayna (yes, I am as exhausted as I look!!)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Why we do what we do. . . .

People often ask us why we adopt or why we have chosen to have the number of children we do at such a young age (26 and 30 for those who are curious). Simply put, who wouldn't want to be inspired and amazed every day of their lives (and, of course, we are NUTS. . .but we LOVE it)!? Because honestly, every one of my children inspire and amaze me each and every day. What a privilege and a blessing it is to be given the honor to know and associate daily with such incredible people. To see the world through the eyes of a child. . .amazing! To love as purely, completely and unconditionally as a child. . .amazing! To truly see people and not race, religion or (dis)ability. . .amazing! The scriptures teach us to "be like unto little children" and so, selfishly perhaps, I have chosen to surround myself with the experts! What greater teachers of compassion, faith, hope, charity and Christ-like love could there be!?

Why do I bring this up? Because everyday I have spent getting to know Lily and Alayna has been equally amazing! These girls are A.M.A.Z.I.N.G and I am truly humbled that I have been chosen to be their mom.

Today's visits with Alayna were wonderful. Although both visits were still supervised, the psychologist sat in the back of the room and only stepped in when Alayna or Toni addressed her personally, which gave me a chance to spend more one-on-one time with Alayna. We spent more time coloring (this girl LOVES to color and is very detail oriented. . .there is not a white spot on the page when she is done with it!). We also made necklaces for her and her friend, Sashka. What she enjoyed the most today however, was looking through her photo album! Once she had looked through it several times, she asked me if I had more pictures. At the time I didn't have any with me, but during our break between visits I downloaded all of my Facebook pictures to my computer and she spent the first half of our afternoon visit looking through all of the pictures on the computer. She LOVED it (I did too!).

Making necklaces

Mommy and Alayna looking at pictures from home!

When we were preparing to leave after our morning visit she told us that she would have a surprise for us when we returned. When we arrived at the orphanage this afternoon, she came into the room with a HUGE smile on her face and presented me with a picture she had drawn and some beautiful flowers! Again, my heart just melted into a puddle on the floor! Not only is she a fantastic artist, but her handwriting is incredible. She writes her name beautifully in Bulgarian and even copied it perfectly when I showed her how it was spelled in English. Let me tell you, nothing is going to hold this little lady back!

The picture and flowers Alayna gave to me. The house, she informed us, is Baba Marta's!

Alayna showing me the back of the picture where she had written her name (Her Bulgarian name is Tsvetelinka).

She sang for me again today (several times) and I was able to capture it on video (she is definitely not shy about singing in front of people). Unfortunately, it is taking forever for the video to upload, so I will have to wait to share that until I get home.

At the request of the orphanage director, Toni and I introduced ourselves as guests who had come to visit yesterday (the director felt it would be best to ease into telling Alayna that I am her mama and that she will be adopted. . . .Because there are several families in the process of adopting from the same orphanage, we didn't want to burn any bridges so we have gone along with this for now). Right now, she knows me as Valerie, the nice lady with the "magic bag" full of fun things! Tomorrow we are going to share with her that I am going to be her mama and that she will be coming home with us in a few months. I do not think that she is completely unaware of what is going on (there have been many adoptions from this orphanage, so the children likely know why I am here), but I am praying that this will be good and welcome news for her. The transition from an orphanage to a family is likely to be very difficult for her, but I am praying that she will take the news well and be excited about the thought of joining our family. Your prayers, as always, are greatly appreciated!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Chestita Baba Marta!

First and foremost, please allow me to introduce:


Isn't she adorable!? Like Lily, she is tiny, but she is so full of life and personality! We arrived in Lukovit this afternoon and went straight to the orphanage. The orphanage itself is a very old facility, but as soon as I got out of the van I could hear children laughing and that sound never ceased the entire time we were there. They may not have much at this orphanage, but the children are happy and they are loved.

We met with the director and two of the orphanage social workers first. They told us a little about Alayna and asked about our family. They shared their information and observations about Alayna and told us that they had prepared her for our visit by letting her know that she would have special guests today (they didn't want to jump right into adoption and mama quite yet, which is probably good)!

Today is Baba Marta, a Bulgarian holiday/tradition to welcome in Spring. A celebration was planned at the orphanage and we were invited to attend. The celebration took place in the gym and it was decorated with balloons and martinitsa. All of the children at the orphanage attended and it was wonderful to see them all laughing, playing and celebrating together (let me tell you, these are some incredible, incredible kids). Several of the children (including Alayna) had memorized poems and narratives explaining the holiday and its traditions.

All of the Martinitsa I collected today!

After the celebration had concluded we were taken to the room we would be using for our visits with Alayna. A few minutes later she came into the room and we introduced ourselves (we had talked to her briefly during the celebration, but no formal introductions were made). She asked if she could draw a picture and so I retrieved my coloring books and crayons from my "magic bag." They psychologist was also in the room with us (and will be for all of our visits. . .orphanage policy). While she was coloring, several of the other children kept sneaking into the room and managed to sweet talk their way into the "magic bag." About halfway through the visit, the orphanage director and one of the social workers joined us, so we had quite an audience for our first visit! Slightly overwhelming :-)

I spent most of this first visit observing and I am already head over heels for this beautiful little girl. Despite the number of people in the room and the fact that Toni and I were strangers (and that I speak a foreign language), she never seemed overwhelmed. She counted to 20 for us several times and even dazzled us with her math skills (math is her favorite subject). The psychologist even convinced her to sing for us (and it absolutely melted my heart). She is very focused (she was completely engrossed in coloring and didn't miss a single detail on the page), incredibly smart and determined. Her physical limitations (scoliosis, absent right fibula and contracted right knee) are her only special needs.

(Engrossed in her work (She named Strawberry Shortcake, "Doll" and told us that she was dreaming of love. She further clarified by telling us that love meant getting married! She and Maren will get along well!)

I look forward to spending this week getting to know all about her! Today I took more of a back seat, which was hard because I was ready to jump right in, but I hope to have the opportunity to bond with her despite the language barrier and our constant supervision. There is no doubt in my mind that Miss Alayna is going to be a wonderful addition and blessing to our family.

Chestita Baba Marta!