Thursday, August 2, 2012

Hand, foot and mouth, anyone!?

When we picked the boys up from the orphanage on Monday we were told that Benjamin had a sore throat and that the doctor would be writing a prescription for some medication that we could fill at a local pharmacy. We filled the prescription, but he seemed to be feeling fine so I decided to hold off on giving it to him (these were not antibiotics, just "cold" medicine and I did not want to medicate him unless he was showing symptoms). The next day, we noticed a rash and, what appeared to be bug bites, on his arms and legs. It has been extremely hot and humid here all week (and my brother and I are covered in mosquito bites as well), so we chalked it up to heat rash and a sensitivity to mosquito bites. Yesterday he started running a fever and we noticed that his hands and feet (soles and palms included) were covered in this rash. I suspected that it might be hand, foot and mouth disease, but, having never experienced it before, I decided I would ask the pediatrician at the polyclinic the next day.

This morning, Thomas woke up with a high fever.

We went to the polyclinic to complete the boy's medicals required for their visas and the pediatrician confirmed my suspicions. Benjamin does indeed have hand, foot and mouth (though he appears to be on the upswing today) and it looks as though Thomas will be following in his footsteps. According to the pediatrician there has been an "epidemic" of hand, foot and mouth throughout Sofia and the surrounding areas over the past month and she was not surprised to see it (and actually diagnosed it before I even had the chance to ask). Unfortunately, because it is a virus, all we can really do is treat the fever and wait for it to run its course. It also means that there is a good chance that we will be bringing this little souvenir home with us.

While my sweet, little boys have had a difficult day, there have still been lots of smiles, giggles, snuggles and loves. The highlight of my day was watching the boys become more interactive with each other. I brought a container of organic puffs with me for the boys to snack on. Thomas loves them, but Benjamin isn't a fan. Thomas brings me the container and does the sign for "more" whenever he would like one. Benjamin usually sits with us and likes to shake the container, but doesn't eat them. Today he decided that he didn't want to be left out and asked for them as well. . . . .then promptly hand-fed them all to Thomas. It was a win-win situation for all parties involved!

Shortly before we went to dinner this evening, Thomas fell asleep on the bed. When Benjamin saw him there he climbed up on the bed and began stroking Thomas' head and kissing him, then tried to lay down and snuggle with him (though I am not sure Thomas interpreted it that way. . . toddler snuggling can be a little rough). It was incredibly sweet and left me with very little doubt that these two will go through life the best of friends.
Benjamin "snuggles" (as you can see, Thomas was not thrilled, but it was a sweet moment)
Kisses and loves for Thomas
Despite the difficulties of the day, it was a blessing for me to be able to love, nurture and care for my little ones in their illness and to witness their sweetness, joy and resilience despite how miserable they were feeling.
Uncle Keenan is barrels of fun

Please pray with us that this virus will run its course quickly and that Thomas and Benjamin will be feeling better by the time we head home on Saturday morning. Also, please pray that this virus will be past the point of contagion so that we do not pass it along to all of our brothers and sisters waiting for us at home (while we Riebens certainly like to keep things interesting, transitions are hard enough without introducing illness into the mix).
Not even hand, foot and mouth can keep us down!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

International Family

Those of you who have been following my blog for awhile may recall that, when we picked Alayna up from her orphanage in 2010, we were able to meet her mother and her maternal grandparents. Over the past two years we have maintained that relationship through pictures, emails and social networking.

This afternoon we had the privilege and blessing of visiting with Alayna's mother, Didi, and her grandmother, Violetta (as well as their friend, Natasha, who served as our translator). It was a two-hour drive from their home to Sofia and they were only able to stay for a short time, but it was time well-spent. We exchanged hugs, kisses, pictures and gifts and best of all, we were able to Skype with Alayna (who very proudly showed everyone how well she is walking and going up and down stairs, gave us a tour of her bedroom, introduced all of her siblings, sang several songs and even showed off her prosthetic and her back brace).

Seeing the joy on Didi's face as she watched and talked with Alayna was a priceless gift.

What a privilege it is to know this beautiful woman, who has become my sister and friend, who  sacrificed so much to give her daughter the best possible chance to achieve her full potential.

Baba Violetta and Grandma DD
 What a blessing it is for Alayna to know that she is loved and cherished by BOTH of her mamas.

How grateful I am to my Heavenly Father for orchestrating such a precious relationship.

Mama Valerie, Mama Didi, Natasha, Baba Violetta, Grandma DD, Benjamin and Thomas (with Uncle Keenan as photographer)

A little piece of heaven

First, please allow me to apologize for not updating sooner. The truth is, I have been so completely absorbed in these amazing little people, that it is hard to pull myself away from them! Needless to say, the past few days have been wonderful and I will do my best to paint that picture for you!

My brother, Keenan, and I arrived in Bulgaria late Saturday afternoon. On Sunday we had the opportunity to attend church in the morning and then spent the afternoon walking around Sofia and catching up on sleep. On Sunday evening, we were blessed to have dinner with the Sutton family who are here on their first trip to meet their sweet son, Ben.

On Monday morning, we woke early and traveled to the boys orphanage in Pazardjik. Once the director arrived, the boy's caregivers brought them to her office. It had been long enough since I had last seen them, that I am not sure that they remembered who I was and, consequently, were a bit timid at first, but it was a sweet reunion nevertheless. Once we had taken them from the orphanage however, it was like  the switch was flipped and we picked right back up from where we left off in March!

I have had the boys for three days now and it has been absolute bliss. Honestly, I feel like I have won the baby lottery. They are fantastic eaters, they sleep through the night, the only time they ever fuss or cry is if they are hungry, tired or hurt and, even then, they are easily consoled. They are having the time of their lives exploring their world and making huge messes just as toddlers should. I am amazed at how quickly they have recognized me  as their primary caregiver and how easily they have bonded. Both of them LOVE to be held and snuggled and, of course, I am more than happy to oblige.  Let's just say, their feet have spent very little time touching the floor.

The absolute joy that these little ones have infused in me over the past few days is indescribable and I am feeling incredibly blessed. Because there simply aren't words to describe just how amazing these sweet, little people are, I will give you what you really want. . . .PICTURES!

Happy Mama! (Did I mention that the boys can say, "Mama"??? And that they use it appropriately?! Yep, I am in heaven)
As you can see, Thomas absolutely LOVES the bath! He especially loves having water dumped over his head! (You can also see how VERY thin and tiny he is. I brought size 18 month clothing. . .he is swimming it in)
"Look at this HUGE mess that I made!" He may be tiny, but he sure knows how to leave his mark on a hotel room!
Taking a stroll around Sofia (my mother-in-law, who is serving as a missionary in the Czech Republic, flew in from Prague to spend the week with us. It has been a blast).
Benjamin loving life

Tomorrow morning we will take the boys to their medical exam and, in the afternoon, we have our visa interview at the Embassy. On Friday, we will receive the boy's passports and visas and, early Saturday morning, we will be on our way home! I cannot wait to get these sweet babies home and introduce them to their daddy and all of their brothers and sisters who are anxiously awaiting their arrival. We have truly been unimaginably blessed!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Thank you!

In just a few hours I will leave for the airport to bring Benjamin and Thomas home. Before I do, I want to take a moment to thank all of those who have offered their love, encouragement, support, prayers and donations throughout this journey. We could not do this without you!

Last week I began an "emergency" fundraiser to raise the funds necessary to cover the cost of food and lodging while in Bulgaria. I was humbled as I watched friends, family and strangers come together to help us raise those funds in LESS THAN 48 HOURS! The Lord ALWAYS provides and He usually does it through the kindness, generosity and love of others. Thank you to each and every one of you who acted as instruments in the Lord's hands in helping us to reach our goal by donating, sharing and praying!

Before I go, I would like to announce the winners of our "Stitched Together by Love" giveaway.  They are:

Jessica Tschudy
Bulgarian/European Chocolate 

Michelle Buhler
Bulgarian/European Chocolate

Karen Davison
$25 Amazon gift card

Lori Schumaker
$25 Amazon gift card

CeAnne Kosel
$25 Amazon gift card

Viviane Martini
$25 Amazon gift card

I will be mailing all giveaway items once I have arrived home. If the mailing address linked to your paypal accounts are not the same as your current address, please send me a message! 

In just a few days my sweet boys will FINALLY be in my arms to stay! Thank you all for being part of this journey! Your kindness, generosity, love and support will, quite literally, always be etched upon our hearts!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Stitched Together by Love

When we began the process of adopting Benjamin and Thomas 15 months ago, we were thrilled to realize that we had enough money in savings to complete their adoptions WITHOUT fundraising. This is a phenomenon and a blessing that we have never experienced before. Recognizing this great blessing, we decided to focus our fundraising and advocacy efforts in November/December on a little boy with Down syndrome waiting for his forever family in Eastern Europe (He is STILL waiting by the way, with almost $5000 in his grant fund! Where is his mama!?).

Of course, when we started this process in the beginning of 2011, we never could have imagined that it would take as long as it has (this has been our longest process by far) and, when estimating the cost of our airfare for our second trip, we never dreamed that we would be traveling to Europe in the middle of the summer. . . . .during the Olympics! Unfortunately, the combination of these two things drastically changed the cost of airfare and our flights were $1500 more than we had budgeted; $1500 that we had planned to use for food, hotel and the boy's medical examinations required to issue their visas.

Our savings are depleted and our time is short. Next Friday, July 27th, I will leave for Bulgaria to bring my boys home. We have little more than a week to raise the money necessary to complete the process. In the past five years (and five adoptions), we have seen the Lord's hand work many mighty miracles when it comes to raising the necessary funds to complete our adoptions and bring our children home and we know that He will provide a way for us to do so now.

Two years ago, when we were working to bring Alayna, Lily and Alexis home from Bulgaria, we did a fundraiser we called, "Pieced Together by Love." This fundraiser featured a 500 piece puzzle with a picture of the Savior surrounded by children. Friends, family and even strangers donated to our adoption, prayed for our success and shared with others, and their names were written on the backs of these puzzle pieces. This puzzle/picture is a priceless keepsake to our family and especially to our girls as they read the names of the many, many people who came together to help bring them home.

We would like to do a similar fundraiser now. We will be calling it, "Stitched Together by Love." The kids and I have worked together to make quilts for Benjamin and Thomas. Each quilt features squares with appliqued hearts (designed by our kids). For every donation made, for every prayer said on our behalf and for sharing this fundraiser with others, your name will be written on a heart on a coordinating piece of artwork that will hang on the wall in the boys' bedroom and will, once again, serve as a reminder of the many, many people who came together to help us bring our boys home.

 Benjamin's completed quilt 

 Appliqued hearts designed by all of the Rieben kids

In addition to having your name forever etched upon our "hearts," we will also be offering (4) $25 Amazon gift cards and a delicious assortment of Bulgarian/European chocolates (to be acquired while in Bulgaria and shipped upon our arrival home). For every $5 donated, your name will be entered to win one of the gift cards/chocolates. Additionally, every time you share our fundraiser through your blog, on Facebook, Twitter, etc. your name will be entered into the drawing (please be sure to let me know that you have shared). To donate, simply click on the "Stitched Together by Love" Chipin on the sidebar.

Any funds that we raise beyond what we need will be donated to the adoption fund of the Van Nice family who is also working to bring two sweet little ones with Down syndrome home from Bulgaria.

We thank you in advance for all of the encouragement, support, love, donations and prayers that have helped us to bring our boys home!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dear Anonymous

We're not the giving up type 


*This video was made in response to an anonymous comment regarding adoption disruption. We respectfully ask our blog readers to take a "judge not" approach when making comments on our blog concerning this controversial topic. Building a family through adoption is extremely difficult. The decision to disrupt an adoption is very personal and, in most cases, heart wrenching for the family and the child. These families need your support much more than your judgement.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

And then there were 10. . . .

We interrupt this prolonged silence to bring you the following announcement. . . .

This morning, in a courtroom in Sofia, Bulgaria, a judge declared Richard and I to be the parents of two more, precious, little boys! We are now the proud parents of TEN amazing little ones!

Without further ado, please allow me to officially introduce:

Thomas Christopher Rieben


Benjamin Daniel Rieben

We should receive our travel dates within the next two weeks and anticipate that we will be on our way back to Bulgaria to bring the boys home in early August! We are SO excited to finally be bringing our sweet babies HOME!

Friday, March 2, 2012


Today I had to say goodbye to my sweet little love bugs. I really hate this part of the process. It is always so hard to leave my little ones behind, knowing that all that stands between us is a bunch of red tape (and about 3000 miles)! Of course, most of it is necessary red tape and I do appreciate the opportunity that I have to really prepare for the boys to come home, so I am keeping my eye on the prize and marching forward knowing that someday soon I will have the boys in my arms again and this time it will be forever!

I visited with the boys individually again this morning. Thomas wasn't quite as active during our visit and was content to sit on my lap for most of the time. This hasn't happened much with Thomas because he is always a ball of energy so I really enjoyed the opportunity to just sit quietly and snuggle with him.

Benjamin was so excited to see me this morning and crawled right up into my lap, gave me the biggest smile and threw his little arms around me. He was SO tired today. We played with his bag of toys for a little while and then he was too tired to do even that so I picked him up and rocked him and he was out cold after only a few minutes. Oh, it was absolute bliss to just sit there and hold him as he slept.

It was so hard to say goodbye :-( I am going to miss those sweet babies SO MUCH!

I arrived at my hotel in Sofia a few hours ago. Tomorrow morning I will say a temporary goodbye to Bulgaria and head back home to my eight other little sweeties (and one big one) who I have also missed terribly!

Once I am back home and settled, I will upload some of the video I was able to get, so stay tuned because Thomas' giggle and Benjamin's smile are definitely worth the wait!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Chestita Baba Marta!

Chestita Baba Marta (Happy Grandmother March)!

Today Bulgarians celebrate Baba Marta. Baba Marta is a celebration of Spring. On Baba Marta friends and family give and receive Martinitsa (which are usually in the form of red and white bracelets) and wish each other good health and happiness. At the first signs of Spring (generally when the first blossoms appear on the trees), the martinitsa are tied to the branches of trees/bushes to symbolize new life.

This is one of my favorite Bulgarian traditions (one that we continue to celebrate in our home), and the second time that I have had the privilege to be here on March 1st.

During the morning visit the orphanage had a Baba Marta celebration. Baba Marta, of course, made an appearance and the children sang and recited poems. Martinitsa were handed out and traditional Bulgarian bread, dipped in honey, was enjoyed by all. There were also several groups (including a group of school children) who visited the orphanage and brought donations and yep, you guessed it, more martinitsa! By the time we left the orphanage that evening several of the children had collected martinitsa up to their elbows and they could not have been happier!


Benjamin and Thomas were fairly indifferent to the whole thing, but they did seem to enjoy the atmosphere and all of the people who came up to them to shake their hands and say hello.

Between visits I enjoyed a special treat. My facilitator, Martin, arranged for us to meet with one of his relatives (a very knowledgeable historian) for lunch and a tour of some of the city's historical sites.

First we toured the Regional History Museum. From there we went to The Cathedral Church of The Assumption. The interior of this church was absolutely breathtaking. Alexander (Martin's relative and my personal tour guide) has written a book about this church so it was really wonderful to hear the intricate details of this church's history.

Interior of the Church. The woodwork was the most incredible I have ever seen.

After we had finished at the church we visited the Ethnographical Museum which Alexander had personally helped to curate. I enjoyed this museum immensely. It painted a beautiful picture of what life was like for the people of this region (particularly in the early 20th century).

A room from the Ethnographical Museum depicting a room from a home in the Rodopi mountains.

After we had finished out tour we thanked Alexander, dropped him off at his house and returned to the orphanage for the afternoon visit. We were a few minutes late so Thomas was there waiting for me at the front door and he lit up like a Christmas tree when I walked in :-)

Both visits with the boys were wonderful and the best part is. . . . . . . I got LOTS of pictures and video! Somehow Martin talked the caregiver into sitting out in the hall rather than sitting in the room with us during the morning visit (there are large windows in the doors so I still had to be sneaky, but since everyone was running around wishing each other a happy Baba Marta, I was able to get some good footage)! Since I know pictures are what you REALLY want to see, I give you Thomas and Benjamin:


Thomas and Benjamin

Thomas, my mischief maker :-)

Benjamin, my snuggle bug

Benjamin really detests having the camera in his face and he sticks his tongue out EVERY time (believe it or not, his tongue thrust really isn't as bad as it seems in the pictures!)

"Look at me Mama!"

Benjamin (if you look close you can see the boys wearing their martinitsa)

Thomas (the little outfit they dressed him in was priceless)

"Get that camera out of my face!!!"

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Snow, photoshoots, food and friends!

It has been a truly wonderful day and I am feeling incredibly blessed.

I woke up this morning to see snow falling.

I hate snow.

But it has been such a mild winter in Ohio and we have only seen a light dusting once or twice this year, and I found it so peaceful watching the snow fall outside my hotel window.

When we arrived at the orphanage this morning we were told that we would take the boys to a photo studio to have their visa photos made. I brought outfits to try on the boys to determine what size clothes they were wearing (based on their height and weight, I projected they should be in size 24 months), so I decided to hand them over to the caretakers and have the boys wear them for their pictures. The clothes fit Benjamin nicely (with a little room to grow), but poor Thomas' clothes were literally falling off of him (and his pant legs and shirt sleeves both had to be rolled several times). They were, of course, ridiculously cute (I'm not at all biased :-) .

Once they were dressed and ready, we loaded them into the orphanage van and drove to the photo studio. Both of the boys did so well. Benjamin cried momentarily when we started to take off his jacket, but he quickly perked up. It took at least 20+ shots of each of the boys before we got one good enough for the visas because they were so intrigued by their surroundings that it was hard to get them to look at the camera. Eventually we were successful!

The director also allowed me to have a picture made with the boys so that I would have a nice picture to take home with me. It was an interesting compromise to the "no pictures allowed" policy! We made three copies of the picture. One for me to take home and one for each of the boys (theirs were laminated for durability, which was smart thinking because Thomas has almost chewed a hole through his already).

After our "photo shoot," we returned to the orphanage and I finished the morning visit with both boys. I was able to feed them both lunch again today which is a great opportunity for bonding and it also gives me a chance to assess feeding issues (and there are plenty). Both Thomas and Benjamin cried for me when I took them back to their groups. Obviously I hate to hear them upset, but it does warm the heart to know that they want their mama.

After lunch I dragged Martin out into the snow and cold so that we could buy martinitsa to celebrate Baba Marta tomorrow (and to bring home as gifts for family and friends). I will expound more upon this Bulgarian holiday tomorrow (and since there is no policy against pictures of Baba Marta celebrations, I promise to post lots).

I visited with the boys separately this afternoon and it was absolutely the right decision. I was able to give each of them my undivided attention and really connect with them. They may share an extra chromosome, but that is about where their similarities end! Their personalities are so different. Thomas is giggly and active. Benjamin is calm and loves to snuggle.

My visit with Thomas involved playing, giggling, and constant activity. My visit with Benjamin involved him dumping out the bag of toys and refilling it (while I held it open) for 45 minutes (and I am pretty sure he thought he had died and gone to heaven doing this) and snuggling with mama.

Towards the end of my visit with Benjamin he was exhausted and was having some tummy troubles (he struggles with constipation). He let me hold him, rock him and comfort him and he even drifted off to sleep for a few minutes (and I thought I had died and gone to heaven). It was bliss holding and loving my sweet baby.

There is another American family here visiting their adorable little boy this week. We usually only see each other in passing at the orphanage, but I decided to track them down during the afternoon visit to ask them if they would like to have dinner. It was absolutely wonderful sit down and get to know each other over some fine Bulgarian cuisine (Have I mentioned that Bulgarian food is AMAZING! I probably gain at least 10 lbs. every time I am here)! They will be heading back to Sofia tomorrow afternoon, but I hope that this will be a friendship that will last a lifetime, because they are truly wonderful people and it was such a blessing to share this time with each other (and I am sure we will be helping and supporting one another during the difficult wait ahead).

Unfortunately I was not able to take any pictures today (aside from the one taken during our "photo shoot" which I promise to scan and upload as soon as I am home), but I am thinking I may get a little daring tomorrow and try to sneak a little video footage ;-) I know, I am terrible, but do you know how much I am going to miss these babies!?! If I don't get to hear Thomas' giggle and see Benjamin's sweet smile for months and months, I might actually go crazy!

Dovizhdane! Ootre pak! (Goodbye! Tomorrow again!)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Today was another wonderful day of visiting with the boys, but I can already see the signs of overstimulation and exhaustion setting in. I visit with the boys twice a day for 2+ hours each visit. These little escapades are definitely not part of the boy's normal routines. There are new faces, new toys, a new language and people constantly fussing over them. It is a lot for these sweet little people to take in.

Thomas enjoys being the center of attention and is easily overstimulated, so when my attention turns to Benjamin or he starts feeling overwhelmed he starts throwing and/or stealing toys, hitting and scratching. His caregiver and I are quick to tell him no and to correct the behavior or redirect him, but it is hard not to feel out of control when your world is turned upside down. While Thomas is stealing the show, Benjamin is usually sitting quietly, dumping and then refilling, a ziploc bag full of toys. Benjamin also expresses his exhaustion and overstimulation by throwing toys, but instead of hitting and scratching, he usually reaches and cries for his caregiver (or me, if his caregiver is not close by), a very healthy sign of attachment.

Thomas is definitely going to be my fearless one. He LOVES being tossed in the air and giggles and giggles until he gives himself the hiccups. He also climbs anything and everything he can physically manage (time to do some major baby proofing). While Benjamin also loves a good climb, he does not, under any circumstance, enjoy being tossed into the air ;-) He much prefers a good snuggle!

Because I believe that it is in the boys best interest, I am going to ask to visit with them separately tomorrow to see if we can minimize the overstimulation and exhaustion a bit. Instead of meeting with the boys together for two hours each visit, I will spend one hour with each of the boys alone during each visit. This will also give me the opportunity to give the boys my undivided attention and allow me to get to know them and their needs individually so that I can be better prepared to bring them home in a few months.

The boys are currently in different groups, but the director has offered to put them in the same group while the adoption is being finalized so that they can have the opportunity to spend more time interacting with each other before we bring them home. I wholeheartedly agree!

Overall the visits have gone very well and it has been such a joy getting to know my sweet baby boys. Exhaustion and overstimulation aside, Benjamin and Thomas are typical toddlers; exploring their world, experimenting with the law of gravity and protesting when they don't get their way. Am I looking forward to reentering the world of diapers, toddler tantrums and mischief-making? If I get to hear their sweet laughter, hold their tiny hands, and snuggle them close, then ABSOLUTELY!

*I only managed to sneak one picture today. Unfortunately, blogger is not cooperating at the moment and I am unable to upload so I will try again tomorrow!

Monday, February 27, 2012


I arrived in Bulgaria yesterday afternoon. My driver and translator,Martin, met me at the airport and we drove straight to the boy's city because they were expecting snow overnight and we didn't want to get caught in it this morning.

We arrived at our Soviet-style hotel at 4:30 and I was out cold by 6:00 (I have a strict no sleeping policy when I travel overseas to help combat the jet lag. Works like a charm, but boy am I exhausted by the time my head finally hits the pillow).

My Soviet-style hotel room

This morning we went to the orphanage and met with the director and the social worker. They reviewed the boy's medical and social histories with me and asked me questions about our family, our support system and how we manage to care for so many children with special needs. They were also very interested to learn about programs and organizations in the US that assist and support families who are raising children with special needs. They shared with me that most of the children in their orphanage were relinquished because the families simply didn't have the resources or support to raise their children. They expressed their desire to see programs and resources like those in the US and other countries, in place in Bulgaria as well so that these families could be confident in raising their children and eliminate the need for orphanages altogether. It was a wonderful opportunity to share the work that is being done by many organizations (such as Reece's Rainbow's Connecting the Rainbow)to do just that.

After the meeting with the director and social worker had concluded, it was time to meet Benjamin and Thomas.

They brought Thomas into the room first. Oh, be still my heart, he is the sweetest, tiniest thing I have ever laid eyes on. His caretaker placed him right onto my lap and he snuggled up to me, looked up at me and gave me the biggest grin. Needless to say, I was a goner :-) Thomas is TINY! He will be 3 years-old in April and he is easily the size of a 12-18 month old. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in personality. He is a total love bug and SO smart. And he has a giggle that just melts me into a puddle on the floor (so I spend A LOT of time trying to make him laugh). He is ADORED by his caretakers (and who could blame them; he is precious). Like many children with Down syndrome he has low muscle tone (he can crawl, pull to a stand and walk holding someone's hand, but cannot walk without support), he cannot feed himself and needs his food to be mostly pureed (though he is being spoon fed rather than eating from a bottle). I had the chance to feed him lunch and afternoon snack today and to spend some time with him in his groupa to observe his interactions with his caregivers and the other children. It was a definitely a treat.

Mama and Thomas

They brought Benjamin to me shortly after Thomas. He is also, oh so tiny and absolutely precious! Benjamin will be 3 years-old in just a few weeks and he is also the size of a 12-18 month old. But, like Thomas, what he lacks in size, he makes up for in personality. Initially Benjamin was very shy and stayed close to his caregiver, but as soon as I pulled out my bag of toys, he plopped right down next to me and proceeded to dump out and then refill the toy bag for the next hour. During the afternoon visit he really opened up. He has the biggest smile (complete with dimples) and the best little laugh. He would sit next to me and play for awhile and then, without warning, he would throw himself into my lap and start giggling and hugging me. Like Thomas, Benjamin also has low muscle tone (he can crawl, pull to a stand and walk holding someone's hand, but cannot walk unassisted), cannot feed himself and needs mostly pureed foods (he is also spoon fed and does very well). I also had the chance to feed Benjamin his lunch and dinner and watch him interact with his groupa and caregivers and it is obvious that he is well-loved.

Mama and Benjamin

The orphanage is very nice. The groups are small with a nice ratio of caregivers to children and it was obvious as I observed the caregivers interacting with the children today, that they love these children very much and do the very best they can to care for them.

Unfortunately, this orphanage has a policy against taking pictures and they also require a member of the orphanage staff to be present during visits, so I have to sneak pictures when the caregiver steps out of the room (I know, for shame! But I feel that it is only right that my husband have the opportunity to see pictures of the boys since he cannot be here and I know I will lose my mind during the next phase of the adoption process if I don't have a few pictures of those sweet faces to keep me going). Because pictures will likely be few and far between, I will do my best to be as descriptive as possible in my blog posts.

Another "stolen" picture of Thomas and Mama

It probably goes without saying but I am absolutely smitten with my sweet little boys and my heart is already aching at the thought of leaving them at the end of the week. It has been an amazing day and there is no doubt in my mind that the addition of these sweet, joyful little boys will make every day amazing!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Bulgaria Bound

We interrupt this prolonged silence to bring you the following announcement: Tomorrow morning I will board a plane bound for Bulgaria. On Monday morning, those sweet little faces that have occupied the front of my refrigerator for the past 9+ months will become, real, live, lovable, hugable, kissable baby boys!

To say that I am excited to FINALLY be meeting my boys would be an understatement. I am ecstatic. To desribe the last few weeks leading up to this trip as chaotic would also be wildly understating. In our family we like to refer to the weeks leading up to an adoption trip as "Satan's Last Stand," and boy has he been making a statement (perhaps I will expound upon our most recent adventures during my trip). Of course, the Lord has also made His presence known in big and wonderful ways and He continues to remind us to "be still" and know that He is God and to trust in Him completely.

Although reports from the front lines have been few and far between over the past few months, I promise to put forth my best effort in updating during the coming week as I get to know my sweet boys and experience a new region of Bulgaria.

Stay tuned! The best is yet to come. . . . .