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. . . . .