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!