Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 pics...




Hoping for a year full of laughter and peace!! It has been so long since I posted pictures of the boys I thought I would end the year on a high note....

Night-night



Obligatory pictures (no relation to the story)


So, after the night time story is over, Tam goes off to climb in his bed. Barry manages to hold Medko like a baby and rock him for 15 seconds and sing something silly to him. He responds with a great grin and a slightly slurred (delirious from no nap?) "I'm so happy". WOW!! There's three little words to rock your parental world!

After singing him the ABC song (breaking a several month streak of Baa Baa Black Sheep), we climb into Tam's bed and he asks: "what that is?" He's pointing at the mist coming out of the humidifier. Barry explains it's water vapor, Donna that it makes the air moist. Tam nods and answers with: "Like chicken." And he doesn't even know how hilarious that is! Though he certainly enjoyed our laughter.

What a just plain great night!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Breakthrough for Medko at soccer!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDYUm-20TC8 This one is Tam.


Medko has now mastered 'B' - as in bubbles, bye-bye, etc. No longer guggles, gye-gye, etc. And 'P' is not far behind! YAY!!! He tries SOOOOO hard - scrunching up his face, and exploding with a giant "PAH-PAH, Please!" Just awesome to watch!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The big cleft eval appointment

Medko spent about 4 hours at Duke Hospital today, seeing 6+ members of their cleft palate team. He glowed with all the attention - and they were great. He has a bit of hearing loss in his left ear (recent ear infection) and a bit of fluid in both. He has a follow-up with both the Ear, Nose & Throat MD and the audiologist in a month. The surgeon was pleased, and said he'd see us in a year. The orthodontist was very pleased/surprised because Medko has an overbite, and most bi-lateral cleft kids have the reverse. After a year or two, he'll take a panoramic x-ray and possibly a bone graft to make sure he has a one-piece upper jaw and bone for the roots of his permanent teeth to attach to.
The speech pathology ladies (2) were pleased with the sounds Medko was making and that we have already begun his speech therapy. They are especially pleased with his level of effort (facial expression when "ramping up" for a 'p' is quite intense) and his willingness to try many of the sounds.
He'll have an eval by the Durham County Schools staff for speech therapy from them soon.

No surgery in his future, provided we can get the fluid to drain from his ears.
YAY!!!!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween 2010

http://picasaweb.google.com/108543218847972405082/Halloween#

Need we say more?

It took maybe 2 houses for Medko to get the hang of it...

Another big day


Just before going out to the car for yet another moment that will define the demise of Tam's toddlerhood, Tam says: "Medko, it's not all about you. It's all about me!" And off to half-day preschool we go... Anyone willing to bet that they'll calling for an early pick-up?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cuddles like a sheep, but ...

So, after a paltry 1st breakfast of 1/2 a squash & sweet potato muffin a piece, the boys decide at 9:45 that it's time for 2nd breakfast. Between the 3 of us, we consumed 7 eggs, 1/2 cup of brown rice, some soy sauce, a lot of Frank's hot sauce (esp for this time in the morning), yellow mustard, 2 oz of pepper jack cheese. I ate 2 eggs & 1/4 of the cheese, pretty yummy if I do say so myself. Tam had 1/2 of his egg, rice, soy sauce & mustard (=fried rice?). Leaving the wolf in Medko clothing to eat 4.5 eggs, the rest of the rice & cheese and all of the hot sauce. AND he just asked for more. He's been eating for nearly an hour! We have moved to a few almonds, and will soon move to apple or strawberries or ...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Good News!

Scott Simon has a book on his own adoptions:
It is well worth reading the article!
and
AND
is making a film - AND their website, at least, seems to indicate a purpose that is child-centric.

WOW!!!!!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A bit of normalcy and a big change

So ... big change first - after visiting our pediatrician and asking Tam about changing his name, we have decided that Medko (pronounced Meedko) will be Nikolas's primary name until he is of age to decide for himself.

Yesterday, we took the plunge and packed up the boys, bought a second hand double stroller from a listing on Craigslist on the way out of town and drove the 100 minutes to the zoo. Yes, long trips are best measured in minutes! The trip went well. The weather was gorgeous: 80s, low humidity, blue blue sky. The boys really enjoyed the seals, the otters, okay almost all the exhibits, except the plants and the empty or apparently empty ones. Tam was extremely concerned about when we would be leaving, asking at least 7-8 times. Tam's favorite was the otters - we got to see them as they were being fed fish and tomatoes. Medko most enjoyed the Dirt Cafe - where both of them got to make muffins, omelettes, drinks, pies, etc. out of a pea gravel/sand mix. Tam almost got a customer complaint for not prioritizing Mommy's order of mashed cauliflower with cheddar cheese. Really very tasty after a beautiful day at the zoo!

Medko protested loudly every time we told him it was time for night-night. When we got on the highway, he didn't last more tha
n 7-8 minutes and was down for the count!

We did get our first picture of the four of us. The 3 ladies we asked were from Norway and one of them was adopted - tiny world!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Made it home!


WoW! What a difference a 4 year old makes for a transatlantic flight! And a tired one at that!
Again, he is a SUPER trooper, running on 2 hours less sleep (up at 4:30a) and so ready for a nap even before we make the flight from Germany to the US that he imitates a fellow traveler, a 6 month old, who he met crawling in the airport. Crawling, with head down, yipes!

The first bit of great news: no apparent discomfort with takeoff or landings and the pressure changes, and he completely refused the Earplanes, though he accepted them in the apartment on our trial run.

The above was written on 09/05. The details of the plane trip have been lost in the ensuing craziness of life at home. Nikolas had some sparkling mineral water on the plane. BAD! Pretty much meant no further liquids for the plane trip, car ride home, the next week. Yup. Week! Thank the Lord above that we have bananas. And cantaloupe & yogurt. And that he had eaten like a 200 lb man for a week in Bulgaria. Because he nearly stopped eating altogether and we all went to see his pediatrician a week earlier than scheduled. Viral infection at the back of his throat, which made it painful to swallow even to this trooper. And no treatment, except for Chestal and unfrozen ice pops.
Miraculously, two days later, his appetite returns though much reduced, and still no drinking. We let him play in the kiddy pool everyday, in part because he loved it, and in part because he might splash some in his mouth... Sad...
He was very concerned about the dogs - still is at times. He started with screams and running and now chases Zoey and holds Tanner's head in his hands. He still gets agitated by their barking and noisy play, but they are loud... No puppy kisses just yet, but he's made a lot of progress so far.
He is an outside boy, through and through. The sunroom, deck and garage (with door open only) are his favorite places. Balls and cars are his favorite things to hold and play with.
He started out in Bulgaria with a massive dislike - bordering on emotional trauma - each time we would correct him or tell him no. This continues, though much reduced. He will vary his response - choices are: run away and flop over, still standing onto the couch and rock from side to side; run away and lay on a step on the stairs; run away and stand in a corner or the dining room or the edge of the deck; collapse into tears and wailing. Apart from the last one, well, the pattern is obvious. The source, perhaps, not so much. A mix of: we started out as the purely fun people - toys, treats, play - so any no is contradictory to that initial relationship; and he wants very much to please us - even a correction about where a ball can be thrown could be a life changing event - the upset and fear are right on the surface. He recovers quickly now, and at times won't even get very far - since he sometimes will respond to questions in the right tone - indicating the mood is still fun and things haven't taken a turn for the worse.
He can be incredibly willful. Today, he and Tam were playing with superballs in the sunroom for over an hour, completely engrossed. The rise of crotch grab and crossed legs signals could not be ignored, and neither would take a potty break. Daddy pockets both superballs and is immediately mugged - 4 little hands trying to pull off his shorts. He drags them across the floor, giggling the whole way, into the 1/2 bath and shuts the door. Tam gets it and immediately drops onto his potty. Nikolas takes a bit longer and when he turns to the big potty, he is prepared to stand for his business. He is still in training about the seat - yes ladies, we are raising him right! So Daddy lifts the seat. This is met with a very firm "eehhh!" and a couple steps back, straight into the wall, hitting his head on a bar on the wall. He stands there, head down for a few seconds, and finally.... he begins to pee - while still leaning against the wall - onto the floor! Daddy is none too pleased and brings the seat down fast (i.e. loud) and grabs him and plops him on it. He begins his wail and Tam asks:"You mad at him?" Daddy is honest and says yes. Tam finishes his business and takes off, straight upstairs, wakes up Mommy and tells her "Daddy is angry at my Nikolas." Not a big mess, and after some talking and snuggles, everything is right with the world again. And so the brotherly love begins to manifest!
His appetite is completely back. He has eaten 4 bananas in each of the past two days on top of two breakfasts (4 banana pancakes - no syrup or butter necessary) and bunches of pasta with either marinara (goes great with everything but bananas, BTW) or tasty butter (for those of you who aren't Nana - that's pesto mixed into butter - YUM!), chicken, deli turkey and salami have all met with celebration noises and forks raised overhead before or after each bite, just depends. Today he even asked for water and drank it!
His skin and hair - WOW! To start with, his skin was literally rough - sandpaper rough. We used Burt's Bees lotion on him in Bulgaria - it was not especially well received - massage-like tough was the culprit we think. We also used Burt's Bees shampoo too. His hair started out coarse, thick and almost puffy. Thanks to some miraculous Miracle II lotion (that's its name) and lavender essential oil from Nana, he nearly free of dry spots, nearly done with non-emotional excuses to scratch his skin. He had an especially dangerous looking pair of wounds at the top of his butt that were nearly completely gone in 36 hours. And his hair is approaching silky and is laying flatter, approaching Tam-like. We'll let it grow out a bit and continue to discuss hairstyle options.

Our SD card to USB adapter apparently did not make the trip back with us, nor does the one we have here work with the current card. YAY! So, another has been ordered and we will have a gazillion pictures when it arrives. The 16GB card only has room for another 2 minutes of HD video or 90 pictures.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"keka noscht"

Okay, so it's supposed to be "leka noscht" - good night. But when it's said with a very little boy high nasal voice, well it does things to you. IT is SUPER sweet! and at the same time, there is an element of sadness in it. He has never slept in a room alone. There were at least 15 other beds in his orphanage room. So, if it's too dark or he can't tell your still with him, well, it'd probably be better to be having the worst nightmare you've ever had. And, of course, we have these great floors, that creak at every little twitch. But back to the boy...

So, if either of us get up non-quietly-enough, there are two possibilities: 1) he follows us in about 90 seconds, looking soooooo pitiful, or 2) he makes this low but truly horrible moan that grows into a cry (see previous post). As Barry lay with him tonight, he rolled until his forehead was nestled into the curve of Barry's nose. And he fell asleep there.

Until us, he has likely never slept with another person in his bed - someone to keep him safe, someone to help him sleep more deeply and restfully, someone to just plain snuggle him, hold his little hand, cover his little foot that so often sticks out from under the covers, stroke his hair, coo to him, kiss him on the forehead after he has fallen asleep.

Little wonder he and his little friends are neurologically delayed - esp. compared to kids who get the above attention. Yipes!

More pictures...

Same place...
http://picasaweb.google.com/108543218847972405082/20100829?authkey=Gv1sRgCP69o4n425nvNA#

Monday, August 30, 2010

So... the pics!!!!

Not here!

And these are just some. We've leave the rest to your eyes except that Donna got an Obicham te tonight! Barry is quite jealous! The first heard I love you for the new boy!!!

Another awesome day!!

A few downs with the ups, but he is sooooooo good! A little testy with us when we are not being entirely firm - we've learned not to expect him to be completely okay with "suburban parent" tone - he is accustomed to tone of a rather more emphatic sort, okay stern and ready to spank tone! He remains a bit intimidated by older women on the street.

It's official: he's AMAZING!!!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

We really aren't teasing

We are being consistently blocked from sharing pictures at nearly every turn. REALLY!
The list:
We had wifi when we were at the Danube- but no Nikolas pictures.
Once back in Sofia, we don't have wifi but have internet via hardwire and a computer in the apartment, but our laptop's port doesn't work??!!??
And the computer here has a CD drive, but it won't open??!!??
The computer also can't seem to handle transferring files from our SD card to its ample hard drives (too little ram)??!!??

So... we will find a hotspot and upload at least a few, at least from Barry's phone (wifi only). We may price a wireless router and leave it here... we'll see...

As a MAJOR bonus, we received two unimagined bonuses from the orphanage: 1) a small album of baby pictures, we think from the previous orphanage, many with a date or age and 2) a CD of pictures from the orphanage from his past 9 months, including pictures from his birthday party. He got to keep his gift from the orphanage (an automobile transport truck with 4 cars). And a couple of the pictures were of him looking and pointing at a picture we sent him with his birthday card. And yes, we cried at that one!

He gets SOOOO excited when he sees pictures of himself. A picture of the three of us from our last trip is easily his most touched "toy".

So this may feel like an extra teaser, but it's just the way things are :(

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Day 3 - the day the shell really cracked

The day begins at 4am, with a very thrashy scratchy boy - but he stays asleep, though Barry can't. Nikolas sleep crawls into the headboard and collapses between pillows and stays active enough that Barry lost about an hour before getting a melatonin. This stuff is divine!!! And everyone is up at 8am to find Nikolas asking for help cleaning up from his second aka. Did we mention he had his first yesterday? It's great when biological function makes your day.

The day got a bunch better - we went to a park nearby, for a lunch of hot dog, burger and ice cream. Better than most of that - there was major construction on the road, and below it right next to the park - excavators, bulldozer, bobcats, cranes, etc. For a someone who had never seen such things, he acted like a regular fascinated boy. And we say "most" because the icecream was AWESOME! Perhaps top 3 of all time - weighed by the gram, including waffle cone - very fair way to go. 5 lev for 2 waffle cones with two scoops and a single scoop dish. Nikolas did think he got ripped off until he tried it! Then there was little else but to eat! Until he dropped it on the ground, upside down of course! Mommy & Daddy didn't need all of theirs anyway...
There were some Roma looking children who fascinated Nikolas too. They had many signs of street children, from their poorly fitting and dirty clothing to bathing in a fountain, to drinking beer (maybe 12 years old) and smoking. Very sobering...
We found a part of the park with childrens' play equipment - most of it better to look at than to play on - in the shapes of giraffe, lion, elephants, etc. Great for a little climber we know - Maya, get your Mommy to bring you! They did have an oldish but nearly western version of playground equipment - two slides, two swings, two towers with a balance beam and monkey bars between them. Nikolas managed several minutes on the swings before wanting to point at something and nearly falling off. He has developed a very strong desire to jump off things, so we spent the rest of the time there climbing and jumping. By this time, it was past time for nap. It really is amazing how much slower he can walk when he's tired but still won't admit to it when we ask.

Donna was able to leave the room while he was awake and he didn't cry and fell asleep quickly. Incredibly quick progress!

Throughout the day, Nikolas has been very VERY talkative - almost entirely in Bulgarian, and most of it words we don't know. He still wants to call Donna "Gaga" - big sister, a confusion from pictures maybe? and Barry was called Tatko - Father several times. But just increased vocalization is a HUGE step for him. We left for some walking and exploring for dinner options and Nikolas would not walk any further on a path we have walked before. He wanted to turn and go past where some workers were working on the exterior of the apartment building. We eventually had to pick him up and carry him. Once past an elderly lady talking with an elderly couple on the 2nd floor balcony, he was fine. On the same walk, we were coming back from a deadend and he climbed up on some steps outside a store that was closed and refused to come down. Donna alertly thought of asking about bathroom needs, but he didn't respond so Barry went to get him and Nikolas pointed into the store and there beyond the plate glass front, halfway through the store was a shiny pretty white toilet on display! Needless to say, off we went!

Dinner went well - with Nikolas eating about half an order of fried cheese with yogurt dill dip. It was pretty fantastic! He didn't do badly with mushrooms stuffed with yummy ham (halfway to prosciutto) and covered in cheese. His least favorite was the main course of what could have passed for a fajita plate in the US, but with only chicken, more tomato, and no heat, but super yummy spices. So he and Tam will likely have their own meals with dark meat chicken and pork while Mommy & Daddy have something slightly less caloric.

After dinner, we returned to a closer and smaller supermarket, with a great, and we mean GREAT produce section. So well display that Nikolas was talking about it from a block away, and urgently too! We got a bunch of bananas and a couple nectarines. He chowed on a banana and some milk before bed. Another day ends with a tummy so tight, well, it might make you nervous...

During the afternoon, we talked with family without video and that was good. During part of it, Daddy & Nikolas played pass the soccer ball in the front hallway. When Nikolas tired of this, he took his ball and closed Daddy out of the living room, while Daddy gave him his saddest face. In a minute, he reopened the door and came looking and calling for Daddy. Daddy made it easy for him several times and each time it ended with Nikolas finding Daddy and running over for a hug and a lift up. And each time, he closed Daddy off again. Daddy finally hid too well and Nikolas gave up even with hints. But the stage was set for... wait for it ...

Mommy picked up Nikolas, eager to get in on the hug action, Daddy hugged both of them, and Mommy announced "Family Hug!" This was met with a look of bewilderment, of course. So Mommy & Daddy kissed. This prompted a LOT of interest! Nikolas then wanted to kiss, and has since, though only by following the same routine. We're still working on the "give me a kiss" request.

At Leka Noscht(night night) time, Nikolas enjoyed his teeth brushing and got a little worried looking when Daddy walked in the room and he still didn't have a pull-up on. Mommy arrived with it and he happily climbed into bed. YAY! After our singing routine, we tried leaving again, but Nikolas wasn't having it. So Mommy worked her magic again and again he saw her leave without complaint. And he gave both of us and his monkey stuffed animal kisses.

What a great day!!!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Day 2 - and it's been good too!

A lot of thrashing and some laying across the bed issues that mostly bothered Donna. So Barry got up with him at 5:45am! Bill of goods, friggin' lied to!!! And Donna got to sleep again until 9am. During which time the boys learned that(not in chronological order):
  • Nikolas loves to crash toy cars into each other, (bring it Tam!!)
  • Nikolas likes to look out windows until he realizes that we are 6 floors up and there's no screen,
  • cars and birds and trees and mountains and a beautiful moon make even open windows worth staring out
  • the morning in Bulgaria this time of year is quite cool - 60 or less,
  • water is really yummy early in the morning(many, many hmmmmms!) ,
  • tickles really are good for both the receiver and the giver,
  • Mommy should get a better night's sleep - boys miss her in the morning!
  • yogurt, even completely plain, is also really tasty as are Kashi, warm cinnamon flavor
  • when car crashing gets too exciting and graduates to car throwing and Daddy says "ne" and one of the boys moves on to book throwing accompanied by a defiant look, well, then we have: our first meltdown
As first meltdowns go, this wasn't all that bad - it came with stomping, smacking a coffee table with a couple hands, and some crying, but compared to some of Tam's, this was pretty tame - it came to an end when Daddy hugged Nikolas on his lap and wouldn't let go. He became relaxed enough that he almost fell asleep. And then we got to wake up Mommy!

Nikolas got to take his first bath - reluctantly at first. There were new toys and not so much water, but with some coaxing, he began to enjoy the water esp the splashing and the toys. Alex (brand name) makes a pretty cool little roadway set, including a floating placemat with a hole in it for a boat, and several cars and a plane. After one cleaning with Burt's Bees and a rubdown from Mommy in Burt's Bees lotion, his skin is remarkably better - a long way to go, but WOW!

After a snack, we headed off to the passport office (they do other things as well). Much mess, with multiple roads closed for construction, and a longish walk, we arrive to a mini-lobby that is only medium full with people in oddly organized lines, almost all of which snake off from their destination at an angle. There were a LOT of questions from newbies about which line someone was in, what that line was for, etc. After the first line, Nikolas charmed a security guard into using the bathroom - only for employees... Again, Mr. Trooper hung in there - tired and getting hungry again! - either standing and holding one of our hands or being hugged tightly to us. BTW, Tam knows how to be held - it's a natural thing for him. Not so for Nikolas, much practice for you buddy! - if only Mommy & Daddy's backs could handle it :( He just doesn't adjust his weight and wrap his legs around you to help... After two more lines, we arrive at the picture taking area - nope sitting on the stool is too short, standing is too tall, kneeling it is! and Daddy had to get out of the way. The smart people there had a teddybear to help with attention. It should be a pretty awesome picture, based on the image we saw! and off to home, a quick lunch accompanied by some moans (modified mmmms??) and some crying when we took him into the bedroom. But, we let him cry it out, and he got Mommy to join in. Definitely some grieving going on - but Mommy has the touch. Daddy got to escape to write most of this and put up an extra sheet on top of the curtains, to help make it easier for Mommy to sleep.

Somewhere in this day, Nikolas convinced Mommy that jumping off the armrest of the couch was a GREAT idea. REALLY??!!?? So, in comes Daddy to make things all better. Not so, it turns out. Mommy only brought the danger of leather sofa (flat, large armrest) and four hands firmly clenched together. Daddy takes the hands a couple times and then "tricks" Nikolas into reaching for his hands, just a bit too far away - and ... and... he "jumps"! Yes, in quotation marks! This is perhaps the most awkward jump in human history. Perhaps. It's more of a barely flex the knees, then don't use those muscles AT ALL, yielding something that looks more like a forward flop/fall with arms outstretched, with little to no shoulder strength, so when Daddy' hands come up under his armpits, his arms go straight up in the air and his feet hit the ground, though slightly less hard than if he'd pulled this maneuver solo. No promises that his feet would have been first in his solo version! Repeat about 20 times, with little to no change in grace, though a little more muscle activity. Nothing at all like Tam's infamous leaps from 6-7 steps up the stairs into Daddy's arms, looking like a flying squirrel or other gliding creature.

After nap time, we went shopping for essentials: TP, napkins, tissues, milk, yogurt, cheese, salami (have we mentioned the 12-16 feet of refrigerated dried or cured meats?), eggs, bananas (he took a bite out of one through the skin! - the boy REALLY likes the fruit!), 3lbs of apples, orange juice, beer, a Snickers (who wanted that, we wonder?). We went to dinner first and found an Italian restaurant that pretty well rocked (spicy olive pesto, sundried tomato and parmesan cheese pasta for Donna and grilled chicken over salad with thick chips (English) YUM!) and broke through a major barrier for Nikolas. We ordered a "baby" order of chicken risotto - yummy enough, a little hot when it came out, and he began munching away. Part way through Barry offered a piece of potato and a piece of my chicken. Shortly after that, the risotto lost its luster and he sat staring at it. He would eat it if Barry fed it to him, or if it was only his own chicken, but he actually decided not to eat! Well, perhaps it was a bit bland, but still, could the spoilage be working so soon? Or was it that we just kept him on schedule? And he would still eat the potato. And then the coup de grace: the surprise (included in the meal) - a chocolate egg with a surprise inside. Good Lord! Not sure there's a better treat - turned out to be a red kangaroo inside an inner plastic egg.

We walked the whole way to the mall/grocery and back - at least 20 minutes - a real trooper, again! though definitely slower on the way back. There was one of the many stray dogs, walking in and drinking from a stream we past over. This was close to his limit of "Do I have to follow you two, or can I safely stay here?" We think he'll be in heaven with two of his own beasts to play with. We found that the shorts we brought are all too big - so we found some 6-12 month ones at the mall - didn't we just get rid of some of these??!!?? But these actually have working pull string waists. What a concept! And so much for all the long pants too - perhaps the sweats will be useful in the a.m. or on the way home.

And for those who will follow us here, bring: anti-itch cream, moisturizer, bath toys, traveling TP and wipes, tissues, (we've been lucky about not needing a nightlight, but we haven't found one here yet and adapting ones from the states are next to impossible, so maybe online?) There's more, but we'll have to post more later.

Day 1 is over and it was good!

  • Day 1 starts with us waking up in a very nice hotel in Silistra, Bulgaria right across the Danube from Romania. None of that matters - all that really matters is that we get to drive a miniscule 35-40 minutes to Nikolas. We did start out with a bit of an issue getting lev in exchange for dollars - the 1st bank didn't offer that service and it seemed a bit odd for the 2nd, but we came away with enough for most of the rest of the trip - provided the shopping doesn't get out of hand!

We had a yummy and rather large breakfast - apparently unusual-ish here - coffee and pastry being the staple. At about 11am, off we went - we picked up the director of the orphanage on the way. We suspect that she came back from vacation for one day or ended it to be there for us and Nikolas. She was quite excited :)

When we got to the orphanage there was a large group of children ~20 in the front play area. As we walked up, and almost past them, one with really short hair, and skinny and tall(ish!) turned around to see who it was. (He looks like he's lost weight, though he's taller, so he may just have remained at the same weight and is proportionally skinnier) Lots of other kids were already making quite a lot of noise. Even with a couple calls of "Medko" from us, there was no moment of recognition or craziness, just a gradual walk down the bench he'd been sitting on until he reached us. He was smiling by the end of the bench, but not beaming. He was very happy to walk into the orphanage and the director's office with us, maybe most happy to walk away from all the other children. He immediately wanted the gift bag that we'd brought for the director, staff and some toothbrushes we'd forgotten to bring the 1st trip. He took the "ne" pretty well and settled onto Barry's lap while the paperwork began. He accepted all kinds of snuggles without protest and gradually warmed up to us. At one point, a special dessert - some variety of custard layer cake - in 4 pieces arrived. Nikolas hadn't yet had lunch and this was super yummy by our standards, so... Only one was left - we weren't sure if the director was supposed to have one or Nikolas, and since he hadn't had lunch, we erred on the side of the director. We got to ask questions - particularly about schedule and any known allergies, etc. Up at 8am (YAY!!!), breakfast at 9, lunch at noon, nap from 1p-3p, snack, and dinner at 7p, and asleep at 10p (NOT YAY!!!) and no allergies. Nikolas wanted to go down the hall to the room we had played in for most of the time we visited him in April, but instead we went upstairs, changed into clothes that we brought, peed one last time in the orphanage and started saying goodbye. Really hard, actually. The main entrance has a walkway bordered by partial fences and one of them was still holding back a seeming sea of little hands and bodies. There was a lot of chaos being restrained :( Nikolas was a point of stillness through all of it - he'd wanted to go straight out of the gate, but the director and a couple of the staff wanted a last picture or two with him, so we waited while the "chao"s and "Mete"(his even more diminutive name) got louder and louder. A couple of kids leaned over, grabbed his hand, grabbed his head and kissed him, and a bunch more just reached for him. One girl was very distraught - just heart wrenching, and a boy away from the main crowd began to breakdown so we tried to move on. We took a couple pictures of the last gate - not for this post, but soon - and several videos, more for the audio...

Nikolas was and remains a SERIOUS trooper! We got on the road at about 1p, and every car or truck was a "kuako" (not really a word, but his version of kola=car). So much so that Barry took the headrest off the unused front seat so he could have better view. Abut an hour later, and a really large number of kuakos, he dropped off to sleep on Barry's lap, while staring at Donna as she pretended to fall asleep. Unfortunately, we needed gas and stopped about 15 minutes later. After another 45 minutes of driving, we came across the same roadside restaurant we'd eaten at in April and stopped. Nikolas sat soooo patiently while other patrons were served, and the smells... Like we said, a trooper! And it turns out, he loves cucumbers and tomatoes are okay (eatable, though definitely 2nd to cucumber). Better yet is Tarator soup - cucumber, onion, dill and yogurt - and we agree. It actually overcame Donna's resistance to cucumbers and re-introduced her to dill. He also went to town on a couple of good sized open face sandwiches(cheese and salami), a very few french fries, and an entire pork meatball. We actually had to cut him off, as he was approaching haven eaten as much as Barry. Surely, you think, he'll fall back asleep with such a full belly. Not so! And so began the test of his resolve, his will to endure the back seat of the car. He really was goood. But at 4, and having not had any playtime since 11:30a, his discomfort level rose and rose, to the point that we were pretty well convinced he just wasn't willing to admit that he had to poopoo (a.k.a. aka, really, that's how you say it!) As it turned out he didn't have to go, and still hasn't as of 4p our time the next day - so we may soon induce with a glycerin injector - we wish we had with Tam! But he desperately needed to stretch his legs and walk and run. (we had even massaged his legs some - they were sensitive and ticklish - to no avail) Only 2 hours left - this is long and you're only reading!!!! - mostly highway and inside Sofia driving. He napped again, though briefly and this time Mommy got the honor of holding him, and we made it to the apartment without further incident. Off to dinner again - this time we knew the place, though all their outside seating was taken - it was a very nice night. The inside was smoke free when we returned from scouting for other options, so we sat and ordered a pizza, more soup, and Zagorka - all yummy. Nikolas and Daddy took turns with one soup spoon, Nikolas on Daddy's lap, and both with a hand on the spoon - super cute, and pretty remarkable for a boy so food focused. The pizza came out scorching hot, but delicious and about $5(converted) One of the waiters mentioned to one of the other patrons that we were American, and he came over - his name was Nick or Nik - and lives in New Jersey, though he was in Bulgaria for several months for business and invited us downstairs to meet some of his friends who were watching a European league soccer match. After we finished, we went but the SMOKE - no need to light up! and we took off for cleaner air, having said hi.
The first bed time was uneventful until we left the room - perhaps our singing had lulled him a bit, just enough to let us get out of the room. Then cry #1 - pretty low and short - enough so for us to believe that he might calm back down. Then a pause - perhaps enough time for us to get back into sight? - and then cry #2 that had us leaping out of our skin as we rounded the corner to his room. He was throwing back the covers with a look of horror on his face - all lit up by a regular light in the room. BTW electricity 220W-110 with a European plug adapters don't work well because of the outlet itself is recessed into the wall, so no nightlight. So! Mommy sang to him some more(3-5minutes) until he fell asleep at about 9:45. YAY!!! Read on if you dare!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Happy 4th!!

Happy Birthday Nikolas!!!

We miss you!!!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Official dates!!

We're really going and it's as official as paying for tickets can make it! We leave on August 24th and return on Sept 3rd. We had wanted a little extra time in Bulgaria for sight seeing, buying gifts, etc. So it works out well.
It can't come soon enough, and there is so much to do!
Tam gets to stay with Nana and the puppies while we're gone.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Travel dates!

We have them...

If all goes well we should be leaving on Aug.26 and coming back on Sept. 4!!!
Nikolas's orphanage is about 7 hours from Sofia so it might take us a little longer to get everything done.
Not long now Nikolas!!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Vietnam update

The Department of State reports that Vietnam is implementing the Hague, effective in 2011. This will mean that there will not have to be a new Memorandum of Understanding. (Thank God!) It does mean that Vietnam is in for a LONG LONG road to proving that their system, as yet non-existent, complies with the Hague Convention standards (implied: to the US Dept of State) before adoptions can resume. There is a fundamental issue: there is no central authority as required by the Hague, with the power to do what the Hague requires, because the power of decision-making rests almost exclusively in local governments. Does anyone sense a back door political move to push Vietnam away from their communist political structure?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Introducing....





Nikolas....We love you and miss you!

Friday, July 23, 2010

YAYYYYY!!!!

Today, our adoption was finalized!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It's official!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We won't be able to travel (apparently) until the beginning of September, nothing firm yet, in large part because so much of the government (& maybe our agency) goes on vacation in August. But we knew that.

We had been concerned that today might only be a preliminary appointment, and that we might get a "real" court date in early September, pushing our travel back until late Sept or early Oct.

Now, we can try to relax and enjoy the last bit of our time with just Tamaroo. Or work on making sure we have everything ready for Nikolas, and even start packing. Or some of both.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

News and ...

It started with the news on Thursday (the 15th) that our judge (apparently a strict one) has our paperwork and requested a letter stating that nothing had changed since our homestudy was completed. YAY!!! It's great news that the judge actually has possession. This came with some serious time pressure - our agency was to write the letter, notarize it, send it to us, we drive it to Raleigh and have it apostilled and return it to our agency so it could arrive in Bulgaria by the 19th. (but they could take it as late as the 23rd)
Yipes!!! and Okaaaaayyy... We're ready to spring into action - actually mostly drive a lot - adding in driving to pick up the form and suggested that we FedEx the document to Bulgaria. So... all we had to do was wait for a preliminary approval of the draft from our agency in Bulgaria and the ball would roll. Except it didn't come, and didn't come and Thursday afternoon turned into a ball of confusion and dread... Finally, at 11pm Bulgaria time, we find out that what "they" or the judge apparently really wants is an updated home study. WHAT THE ??!!?? This would mean submitting it to USCIS, waiting for a new approval letter, waiting for them to forward this back to the Embassy, etc. Not as paperwork heavy, but certainly at least a month, and potentially much longer. We got to spend the night pondering the possibilities and the ridiculousness of such a request, especially since NOTHING has changed and an update would raise eyebrows at every step of the process.
So.... Friday, cooler heads prevail, and we are back to a letter being acceptable - no solid news that the judge will find this acceptable, but... We expect to get the document today and will get it apostilled and FedEx'ed out Monday. (FedEx offers next flight courier service - just in case you ever need it - though it might be just as good to fly it there yourself!)
Working through the "buffers" of an additional agency, an entirely different language, and a 7 hour time difference makes "little" challenges into bigger ones, with the corresponding stresses. We still do not have an official court date.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

not exactly progress, but we'll take it!

We heard today that our paperwork should make it out of the MOJ next week, moving on to the court. YAY! no serious hurdles! We should hear from them within 2 weeks at least when our case will be "heard" in court and (hopefully not!) if they want any additional documentation. That will be it for the adoption itself!! There will remain "little" details: new birth certificate with our names, doctor's appointment as part of his US Visa, and then the final interview (this time with us!) at the Embassy. And, of course, the flight back with a ~4 year old who knows little English, has little exposure to cars, let alone airports and planes, etc...

Friday, June 18, 2010

It's broken!

The stalemate between USCIS and the Department of State about who should "give" and allow the paperwork to proceed is finally over. Actually, the USCIS officer says that USCIS will make a correction soon, and that we will get an updated form in the mail.

GIANT WHOOOOSSHHH!

So we should be in the slide to home soon, relatively speaking. The last check points for our paperwork will be: a stop at the Ministry of Justice in Bulgaria for a couple of signatures (about a month) and a trip to the courts there. For the latter, they have 2 weeks to set a date for the hearing on our case. That hearing cannot fall in August because the government pretty well closes down. We should travel 3-4 weeks after the court date - we are guessing September, though we hope to know the time line in July. And, of course, the Embassy gets one last stab at what they call an "ineligibility review" when we are in Bulgaria and finally meet them face-to-face for the final visa interview. We probably need to begin the tongue restraint training now!

Ineligibility review - are you kidding me???!!!??? It's honest, but wow... The threat from these horrible terrorist-in-training preschoolers must be enormous!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Living for Monday...

Friday came and went with no news about our case. All emails and phones calls were done with no reply. So we will wait out another weekend and see what happens on Monday.

We did hear some good news on Thursday. The Article 5 letter was released by the US Embassy. So we are moving forward. YAY!!!!
After reviewing the visa application, the consular officer sends the Convention country’s Central Authority notification – called an Article 5 Letter – that you are a suitable adoptive parent and that the child will be able to enter and reside permanently in the United States. (The Central Authority is the entity designated by each Convention member country to serve as the central point of contact for Convention adoptions. For the United States, the Central Authority is the Department of State.) This was pulled from http://adoption.state.gov/visas/hague.html

We were worried that the Embassy was holding our case until our I797c was updated. Thank goodness they released it. We should be finished with the US side of things except for the visa interview at the end. The Article 5 has to get translated and legalized before it is turned over to the MOJ. The MOJ starts the Bulgarian side of approval. We are hoping that it will be at the MOJ in about 2 weeks. please please get there..
Our dream of picking Nikolas up before his birthday is not going to happen. There are NO court dates scheduled for the month of August. NONE!! The courts go on vacation.

Happy Weekend!!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

an outcome

Our email inquiry with our agency last night came back with the stomach emptying question: what phone number is the best to reach you?

And after 40 minutes of question, answer and utter shock we found out that the current status of our case is ridiculously far from where we thought it would be, even could be...

So, the back story:
Our home study reads that we are ready for/ will accept a child 0-3 years of age at referral.
Our I-800A (the 1st provisional approval from USCIS, of sorts) approval reads 0-3 years.
Note the lack of specificity.

And the not-so-surprising twist:
During our provisional interview, a consular official in our Embassy in Bulgaria has decided that these do not match, and deduced that Nikolas will be 4 years old by the time of our final visa interview. (Just to keep things a little straight in a world where 2+2=5: the Embassy is part of the Department of State, not Department of Homeland Security, so they don't have to listen to each other, like each other, coordinate, play nice, or anything else)

In at least 3 other cases where our agency has dealt with this sort of issue, USCIS has "simply" changed THEIR own verbiage on the I-800A approval form. Our officer there (different than the idiot above) told our director that she would have to consult with her supervisor before making such a change without an update to the home study.(likely a 3-4 month process) She also offered up some choice lip about why we didn't catch this last year. And in a separate breath said that the Embassy should refer back to the home study. But they don't have to play nice. Nor do they have to talk to each other to get the changes they "want" - since CLEARLY the source paperwork is just fine.

More back story on this point:
  • the age consideration information in our home study is on the first page, in the first and only 5 line paragraph on the first page, in the FIRST sentence!!!!! It's hardly buried...
  • the home study is the key source document, arguably the most important source document representing our interests and capacity, for nearly every stage of the adoption process and figures into every decision made by officials in both governments; most other documents are derivative.
  • One of the jobs of the consular official is to review our case, including our home study for errors and to rejudge our compatibility with Nikolas. They must read it, because they can't make their decisions based on the decisions of their "rival" government branch (USCIS/Department of Homeland Security).
Which should be as simple as: we matched at referral. We match now. OF COURSE he going to age as this process drags on. Where is the common sense??? Where is the humanity?

This smacks of ulterior motive: political, personal value, ego seeking power/control, etc. This kind of decision-making shows up in countries where stalling paperwork is a great way to earn extra money from a bribe.

and when Donna was crying this morning, Tam asked "why?" Barry explained that people were trying to keep us from his brother. Tam immediately replied, in a low, serious, almost growl-ly voice: "Me yell at them, tell them to let me see my brother."

So, we are refitting our Vietnam mental battle armor, with a big alteration: we are trying to tame the anger beast at least enough to remain loving for Tam. Our faith that this will all work out is NOT in question. But we know that we cannot be idle because our relationship with Nikolas is threatened. So, we welcome actionable advice :-| (grimly determined face) and your prayers for our serenity, strength and wisdom and the warming of hearts of a few choice government employees :-} (shaky smiley face)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Still waiting...

No news today about our interview with the US Embassy:(
I think I might have confused some people. We are here in the US. We were not present for the interview. I should have said that our paperwork and our Bulgarian representative had an interview.
We just get to sit and wait for the outcome.

GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!


Monday, June 7, 2010

update...

Our provisional interview with the US Embassy in Bulgaria is tomorrow. Hoping to know the outcome by tomorrow afternoon. May our interviewer be in the best mood ever!!!!!!
Wish us luck!!!



Thursday, May 27, 2010

I-800 pre-approval!!!!

YAY!!!!
It's done! It hasn't left their offices yet, but maybe tomorrow it will move on towards the Embassy in BG by way of the National Visa Center. IF we are really lucky (!!), our representatives in BG may have an appointment next Friday at the Embassy for the next phase.

It's only been since April 7... What a messy hurdle...It took us 7 weeks to complete this part of the process. We did have an RFE to deal with:(
For most families this part of the process takes between 1-3 weeks to complete.

We just heard that a supervisor at USCIS made history by making a decision in a case a lot like ours - requiring the same kind of document that was outlined in our RFE (request for evidence). The official "ruling" happened today, though they've been acting according to it for 7 weeks. All the extra work they made for themselves by not being proactive, all the extra work for foreign governments to go back and re-open individual cases to create this document after they had done the "usual" and worst of all: all the affected children had to wait the extra 5-6 weeks. I can't do a sad enough sad face for them...

But at long last our paperwork moves and we are one step closer to having Nikolas in our arms again. We miss his laugh!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Friday email surprise....

We applied for our I800 before we left to visit Nikolas. We received an RFE(request for evidence) from the National Benefits Center(USCIS) for some documents that we were missing an English translation and one other document. If you receive an RFE you have 45 days to get the requested documents back to NBC. We were getting nervous about the turnaround time.

But...yesterday we got an email from our agency! YAY! They received it and sent it on to the NBC officer. So by next week we should hear something. Please let us move on to the next step!


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Re-focusing

We have finally (okay, Donna gets the credit) figured out that we need to tell Tam each night before he goes night-night whether Donna is going to work or not. In our extended trial of 3 nights, he hasn't cried in the morning at all. YAY!!! It's the same routine except that he knows ahead of time.

As we said goodbye this morning, Tam imparts the following wisdom: "Don't crash. You drive straight. You go straight to work. That all you need." WHAT!!??!!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Day 5 & 6

non-spoiler alert: unexciting stuff ahead, or at least nothing about Nikolas...

Day 5
Back in our very nice apartment in Sofia, we had only one item on the agenda: to sign paperwork at a notary. With that taken care of by 10am, we did some walking and shopping and took a tram, though the wrong one, back towards our apartment. We found that the tram street was a pretty high end shopping area that ended at a very nice park, complete with the first and only lawnmower of the trip. Most of the shops handled us speaking English quite well. At the park, there were a good number of children friendly vendors including a bungee/trampoline combo and a clear vinyl ball floating in a fountain pool that a kid could get inside and jump around or run like gerbils... The view of the mountains to the south of Sofia from here is almost otherworldly!

Some unusual observations:
  • there are quite few stray dogs in Sofia - apparently only very recently have they formed packs and attacked anyone.
  • There are smokers everywhere!
  • Propane gas is available at most gas stations for appropriately outfitted cars.
  • Park benches are occupied by high school age couples after school. After 5pm or so, the couples age and are frequently accompanied by beer.
  • Beer is available in 1.5L & 2L plastic bottles. Even the better Bulgarian varieties.
  • There was an 8' section in the pretty high end grocery we found devoted entirely to varieties of salami, dried or cured pork, etc. both in pre-sliced and traditional sausage shapes. And there was more in the deli case.
  • There was an even longer section devoted to a variety of yogurts - many with the % of milkfat listed prominently. They were super yummy!

Even with the distractions of shopping for Nikolas, Tam, souvenirs, breakfast for Day 6, etc. we were definitely down. After some take away dinner (which felt like a very rare thing), we crashed.

Day 6
Up at 3:45am for a 4:30am pickup, for a 655am flight. Sofia airport was wonderfully empty. We got into Paris on time and made our connection to Miami. They fed us twice - which wasn't quite as yummy as Alitalia, but since we were getting in at 9:45pm (body time)... There we had to make it through Customs with Barry trying to use a Customs declaration in French - everything was right except the two addresses - ooops! Wouldn't have been bad, except that we had to make a connection to RDU in less than 2 hours - including collecting luggage, checking in, and getting back through security. The real wooooosh kicked in when we made it with about 20 minutes prior to boarding. We made in home at about 3am (body time). Tiring under vacation circumstances, let alone for emotionally wasted parents...

Some warnings to future travelers:
Plan on both physical and emotional exhaustion after you have to leave your child. Obvious, but you'll have a legitimate need to grieve at leaving him/her at the orphanage, and again when you leave Bulgaria. There is only one thing that will help: time - to love and be loved by your family & friends, pray if you do, and rest. With time to reflect and move past the anger and denial phases, you can then free your energy and attention to return to "normal" life and recover from the plane trip(s), changes in diet, etc. We were "lucky" to have a 7 hour drive from the orphanage to Sofia - both for cat naps and for getting the anger out about why the process had to be the way it is.
Make our mistake of trying to resist this and you may fall through the enveloping sadness into depression. Ain't pretty! Feels worse :(
Even with the feeling gone, it stills takes a lot more energy to perform the tasks of "normal" life. Things as simple as typing this show the effects (even typing accuracy is way down!) - let alone being creative about how to play with Tam, what to cook, etc. The complete cure is going back and getting him!

So, about a week and a half later, we are facing the extent of our wounds, opening up about them, and beginning to help each others heal.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Days 3 & 4 with Nikolas

Day 3 (sorry that we got behind by a day)
Wednesday started with a very-happy-to-see-us Nikolas. We introduced him to Oreos in addition to his "usual" smuggled in morning fruit and collected some bonus points ;) We also allowed him nearly unrestricted access to water and he almost went crazy over it. He drank from a glass glass, actively helped pour it from our 2 liter bottle and ... He quickly was asking for "more" in English as well as signing, sometimes to the exclusion of anything else. This had 2 consequences: 1) he peed, a LOT, duh! and 2) we got to see that drinking had the unintended consequence of clearing out his nostrils :( It seems that his swallowing is in need of some muscle training or some additional surgery - depending on the source. We'll see.

Overall, this was a very emotional day - complete with high highs and lowish lows. He began reaching out for us for the 1st time, to be picked up, to be held, to be hugged. Later on, he initiated some really wonderful snuggles and squirmed onto our laps without any prompting. He giggled a LOT! During chasing, playing hide & seek, airplane rides with Daddy - such a simple, innocent and joyful noise! He still loved balloons, both tied off and as little random rockets. After a couple demonstrations of how a balloon sticks to hair after rubbing a couple times, he was trying to imitate/recreate it himself. He also wanted to run out the front gate when we went outside to play. The fun bag was still a huge hit, though coloring and playing with a ball were far less interesting than earlier on. He did want to clean up things back into the fun bag too.

On the flip side, he clearly felt comfortable enough to start expressing his displeasure at things not going his way. It was a little disconcerting to deal with a 2 year old (or younger) reaction at his size (still not huge!). Especially when we told him "ne" (no), he would immediately withdraw and sometimes escalate. His body language is incredibly expressive: at one point, he was expressing mad as a leaning slump in a corner, with some stomping. When that didn't get him his way or better attention, he slid to the floor and acted and cried like he'd really hurt his butt. That did get us over to him, maybe unfortunately... We tried not to reward it, but... At one point, he got very upset when we tried to take off his shoes - still no idea why. We didn't fight that one long - just quickly measured the length of his foot for shoe size for later and put 'em back on. (gotta pick the battles!) He also started to rebel against washing his hands after peeing - this was a 180 change - previously, he had done very well with this and even helped turn on the water, helped find a towel, etc. At one point, he was so adamant in his refusal that Daddy had to wash his hands for him. He Really didn't like that! Resulted in his second slide-to-the-floor-and-kick-his-feet temper tantrum of the day! We made it to a carpet for this one though, so we could let him work it out without much risk. YAY! okay, not so yay, but...

It was certainly tough to see him struggle, to see him attempt to digest what it meant that we would stand our ground with a "ne". But we will certainly take all his steps away from the institutional mindset, attitude and body language. Early on, it was hard to pick him up because he was soooo compliant; he was just dead weight - no clinging, no lifting legs to wrap around our waist, no shifting of weight to "help", etc. He was just used to being trained. And even negative behaviors that expressed his preferences were a sign of him coming out of that institutional shell. And maybe he was beginning to express pain, suffering, loss, and unknown other things that he has managed to keep inside. (at his age!) It certainly feels better to have him just love on us while we're loving on him, but if he has a backlog of pain, it may be more important for him to feel it, express it, and have us love him through it. And it makes it all the more important for us to get back to him quickly.

We were very fortunate that we were able to give the speech therapist that serves the orphanage a ride back to her neighborhood. Along the way, she shared a very broad and integrated understanding of Nikolas's needs - everything from straight speech therapy exercises from a professional to tactile exploration to self esteem building to speech demonstrations from us to welcoming him by doing some things like he does. (We've already introduced Tam to the "ahhh" noise that Nikolas makes. And he likes it and says that his brother says it! It's the overly dramatic sound we could make when we finish a refreshing drink... But N does it when he's happy. It's friggin' awesome!) The conversation reaffirmed a LOT of what we had planned and opened our eyes to some connections between activities that were obvious once she talked about them. It was also great to know that she would be going to the orphanage a couple times a week for a while at least.

Day 4
We only got to spend the morning with him on Thursday :( We were both pretty apprehensive (and generally sad) about how he would handle us leaving and being told that we wouldn't be back for a while. We got to see his bed (really pretty nice), put his his puppy stuffed animal on it and play upstairs for a change. He really liked watching from above while the other kids play outside. Likely, that bird's eye perspective was completely new to him. Our translator read Nikolas a book that Tam has grown to enjoy: "I'll Always Come Back" and part way through Nikolas wanted to get down to play. (It's not a long book, so it's hard to know why, beyond the lack of actual story...) We also got an opportunity to walk down the street with him. He is an awesome walker! With his steady pace, solid grip, and immediately turning to us when dogs barked, pointing and getting excited when we came close to a donkey, he was just a joy!
At one point, with the director present, he ran into a neighboring room, grabbed a caretaker's shoes from the floor, ran back in and threw them down on the floor. Clearly he was feeling independent! She turned to us and asked us how we had turned such a good boy into this in just three days. We hope he doesn't fight the inevitable re-training from the caretakers too much.

When it came time to say goodbye, we were worse off than he was. The director offered to walk with him out to the car, but we declined. He had so enjoyed leaving and riding in the car that he would have been even more saddened that he couldn't go with us. He cried a little, though less than us, and held the director's hand for a really long time standing outside the front door.

To have been so blessed with Tam, to have the opportunity to adopt another amazing little guy, to have him be in an orphanage with such an incredible director, and to have such a wonderful translator - it all helped make the sadness at leaving Nikolas less sharp. Still pretty bad... We'll be doing care packages to him and the orphanage regularly.

All this brings us to a sad compromise: we have decided to make this blog private for a while. We ran afoul of the "rules" (unprinted ones) earlier by posting to a Yahoo group what the powers-that-be deemed "too much or too soon". We began moderating comments here after an underinformed individual posted one revealing such. The big concern is that there are (confirmed) far less benign people out there who might use what we are sharing here against us. They have, in fact, slowed at least two other families in their final stages. Fundamentally, that is unacceptable and unconscionable. If Nikolas weren't in such need developmentally, if we had a way of actually conversing with those who would do him harm by keeping him institutionalized longer, if... if... if...
We greatly value what others are sharing on their blogs and certainly want to pay forward. We will attempt to include everyone we know is following this when we privatize. If we miss you, we apologize in advance. Please email us: barry.delong@gmail.com. And once Nikolas is home, we'll bring it back with even more details and photos (and if you're really lucky video!!!)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Day 2 with Nikolas...


We are still waiting to see if our I800 was approved by the NBC. There was one document left out so it was rejected the first go round. :( So we are hoping in about 2 weeks we should know something!

On Tuesday (April 27) we started out in the same playroom as Monday. He was happy to see us. Donna's mega-great idea of the "fun bag" containing the few toys we had packed in our clothes suitcase and our carry-on. We also got really lucky before we left Sofia and came across a toy store that was in its first day of operation. We got an eight pack of Play Doh and an extruder accessory. The Play Doh rocked! Not only for the squeezing and extruding, but for the stacking and playing with the little containers. As it turns out, handing Play Doh containers back and forth with Donna is remarkably therapeutic and a developmental accelerant. After a few rounds of Donna thanking him each time he gave her a container, Nikolas started copying - quietly but REALLY REALLY exciting. After a few more passes, he was loud and clear enough to be heard across the room! This was just plain amazing!! Until this, he was at best speaking in very specific 3 word sentences, about cars or dogs, etc or sticking to baby talk. All this in the first 2 hours...

We then got permission to take him down the road a little ways to a nature preserve. As we left, we were swarmed by 10-12 eager little people! Once I gave in and picked up the closest cutie, the chaos really began. Lots of pushing, shoving, jostling, some knocking down even, and no end in sight. One of the caretakers had to pry a little girl off of Donna's jeans pocket - specifically she was holding on to it with her teeth! YAY! We finally made a run for it and the caretakers took control again. We had a great time running around, playing and blowing flowers. Nikolas has an amazing laugh. We brought one Play Doh with us. At one point Barry took the Play Doh away from him to put it back in the container. He got a serious pouty face and squirmed away from Barry. Donna gave it back to him and he perked right up. This was our first taste of Nikolas showing us that he really wanted something and did not like to hear the word "ne" (no) After a little negotiating (non verbally), we got him to put it back in himself and then held onto the container. Win-win!

When we started to get ready to leave at 7:00 Nikolas became very sad. Even with a translation that we would be back in the morning to see him, it didn't go smoothly. What happened next broke our hearts. Nikolas started to cry..not a little, but a lot. We kissed and told him how much we loved him. As we walked to the car we could hear him, even through the new front doors that sealed quite well. Donna cried, of course. The director, who was showing our translator where the other two orphanages in the area were located, told us that since Nikolas had been there (5 months) he had shown no emotion. Barry held it together until she told us this... This was the first time that he had, and boy did he! Really tough end to a great day though... We were getting through to him - we wouldn't want to change a thing! We had an incredible second day with him!




Sunday, May 2, 2010

Home, but missing Nikolas


What a trip! Sorry that we were not able to do more posting while we were in Bulgaria, but we will make to up for it now.

We were supposed to travel on April 17-24, but because of the volcano ash we had to postpone until April 24-May1. We were not taking any chances so we decided to fly in through the southern part of Europe. We left for Miami on Friday night. From Miami we flew to Rome and then on to Sofia. We arrived on Sunday afternoon, but our luggage did not. :( So we had to stop and fill out paperwork hoping that it would turn up in the next few days. We did not care about our clothes, but did care about all the stuff for Nikolas and the orphanage. Our translator met us at the airport. More on him later. So after exchanging some money and dropping another person off at their apartment we made it to our apartment. We loved our apartment. We had internet and space to move around. Could not have asked for more! (except maybe an alarm clock!) We had dinner at a great pub. It was a little cool, but we sat outside. Be prepared just about everyone in Bulgaria smokes...inside and out of restaurants. Donna cannot handle the smoke so we sat outside. When we got back we called the airport. They had one of our bags!! YAY! We could pick it up on Monday morning.

Day 1 of meeting Nikolas...Monday, April 26
Monday morning we got up very early. We had to be at the airport to pick up one piece of luggage before making the 7 hour drive to his orphanage..yes you read that right: 7 hours. We arrived at the orphanage around 1:00pm; it was early and got lucky with traffic. We had an opportunity to sit down and talk to the director. She is fabulous! We fell in love with her. We were able to ask any question that we wanted. She had notes from the caretakers that she read to us. She didn't know some of the answers to our questions so she went to get a caretaker to make sure that we had the right answers. After about 30 minutes she went to get Nikolas. She entered the room with him and just like that we were in love. She held his hand as she talked to him in Bulgarian. She explained that he had special guest. He came over to us very shy. We took his hand and started to talk to him. He looked up at us still not understanding how his life was about to change. We kept the interaction very simple. Holding his hand and looking into his eyes. One of the questions that we asked was if they told him that we were his mommy and daddy. The director told us no, but if we knew we wanted to continue with the adoption that it was ok to tell him. We said that we did. So right then and there she told Nikolas who we were. He smiled. He was very tired because it was past his nap time so we said goodbye to him. Our hotel was 40 minutes away from his village so we went down the road to a nature preserve until he got up from his nap. He got up around 4:00pm. The director again went to get him. We were able to be with him while he had a snack. He ate every bite!! Super steady and smiling and doing what would become his signature sound of happiness: a sudden little exhale. After he finished we were able to take over a playroom. We had a blast! We got on the floor and played with him - lots of ball and car rolling back and forth. We did a lot of hands on play. Blocks, play-doo, and drawing. There were some kids in the hallway that lead to the playroom. He heard them and we thought that he might want to go play with his friends, but what he did surprised and made us laugh. He went to the door and closed it so that no other kids could get in "our room." To put it simpify he melted out heart. We were allowed to stay until 7:00. It was hard to say goodbye, but we had a great day with him and knew we were going to see him tomorrow morning. They told him that we would be back tomorrow.
The world became a different place - there was another boy who knew we loved him and wanted more...
The hotel turned out to be really nice. Dinner at the hotel was awesome - we had a great conversation with our translator. The food was super yummy including what we guessed was whipped butter with caviar mixed in. An entire bottle of Bulgarian wine was 10 lev = $7.50 and it was yummy. We struggled to get on the internet - finally we went to the lobby and checked email and it was after midnight before we got to our room to wind down. And there was a LOT to wind down from!
Day 2 tomorrow with pictures....








Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Short and sweet!

We are in Bulgaria, having a great time when we're with him and a less than fabulous time recovering from leaving him. We'll do a more in-depth post soon. (we hope!)

He is amazing! A lot like Tam... and a bunch different too. He'll fit in really well!

We dealt with our first 'ne' (no) today - not as smooth as being just the awesome people who played with him yesterday. But most of the day was still incredible - playing, drawing, running, beginning to trust being in our arms, etc. Leaving at lunch time was rough - he puts so much expression into his face since his speech is lagging. But that was NOTHING compared to the cataclysm of leaving tonight. He wailed and cried loud enough for us to hear outside, at the street, with the doors closed. They are even new doors; they seal well. The director of the orphanage came with us to show our translator where the other two local orphanages are in this area and told us that Nikolas hadn't shown any emotion since he'd been there - 5 months +. We are still pretty emotionally fragile about it - as Donna sniffles proofreading this...

Okay, more than sniffles! :( But it's great that we're making such strides!

And he said "Thank you" today, not in Bulgarian, in ENGLISH! This is absolutely HUGE - size of the Earth HUGE! since everyone has a hard time understanding the 2-3 word phrases he uses in Bulgarian. He still does a fair bit of "goo goo ga ga" vocalizing (Bulgarian version). He knows quite a few words in BG, but says very little. Donna made the breakthrough by exchanging 8 jars of Play Do with him, each time saying "Thank you". They just kept going, and he started to murmur it, and it got stronger and stronger until our translator heard him clearly from across the room. The orphanage's nurse came in and told him to say it for her, and he wouldn't. Once she stopped talking, and Donna started in again, he said it several times, each time super clear.

This has enormous ramifications for his ability to adapt to his new life - with Tam and the rest of us talkers.

He eats very steadily - not fast, but he is very thorough - no bit of apple went to waste - we had to take the stem away early on and eventually the center. He is going to push it though - he tries to get us to do things that he knows he should do - take his bowl and cup to the kitchen, throw out his used kleenex, etc. And he loves to make us laugh - sound like anyone else? I can see the dueling comedic sons now...

He is still working on the potty - no accidents while we are around - and a diaper at nap and at night.

I'll stop here. More later- probably much more...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

One more time?

Having been denied by a once every 200 years occurrence meshed with a "just right" wind in the northern Europe route to our boy, we took a break from our more faith based approach and tried like crazy to get to him anyway. And all it did was show us that trying for too much control will just make us crazy. Or completely bankrupt us (some individual coach tickets were going for $16k) And that we should plan on our trip through southern Europe. We almost went to Istanbul (not Constantinople!) and took a short hop to Sofia. But cooler heads prevailed and sooooo...

One week from our original planned departure, we will leave from Miami and fly through Rome. And we'll get to see a friend's home and maybe play in the sand on Saturday morning! Just playing the odds that the plume will either subside some or not get that far south. We will come back through France, a week later, so we're REALLY hopeful either the eruption will calm down or the winds will shift or both.

We really, really want to thank everyone who wished us well, was disappointed with us, and supported us. We'll pack it all up again in 6 days! and hopefully Tam will feel better by then - sinus drainage and sleep interruptions make for a less-than-happy boy :(

Flight canceled

Heartbroken!!

We are trying to make other arrangements, but it is not looking good.

Does anyone know the amount of time you are required to stay in county??




Friday, April 16, 2010

The unexpected..

In adoption we have come to expect the unexpected!
BUT!!!!
I never thought that a volcano would be standing in the way of us meeting D for the first time. I have been watching the growing number of airports closing. With every new one I get a sick feeling. Here is what I got from Lufthansa's website...The important part for us is that as of right now Munich is still OPEN! Which makes me very nervous about flying to Germany with all other airports around them closed. But that is a whole other issue. We are suppose to leave tomorrow. Please pray that it stays that way and for our safe journey! We have waited since Jan.22 to see our son.

Volcanic eruption causes irregularities in flight operations

Last update: 16th April, 10:05 UTC
Please read the latest updates on the flight status here on this page.

In the wake of the volcanic eruption in Iceland large sections of the airspace and many airports in Central and Northern Europe have been closed by the air safety authorities.

Like all other airlines, Lufthansa must comply with directives issued by ministries and air traffic control. Many European airports have closed. All German airports except for Munich are closed until 6 p.m. UTC. All arrivals and departures there have been canceled in those airports. Passengers who have booked flights from the above-mentioned airports are requested not to travel to the airport and to keep up-to-date with the status of their flights via:

Monday, April 12, 2010

"in process"

USCIS received our I800 on April 5th. We received a letter today saying that we were "in process." It only took 7 days. One step closer....

The time is almost here for us to meet our son. We fly out Saturday night!! We are ready to make this trip so we can get back and let the paperwork start rolling again. We have no idea when we will travel back. The summer break could slow us down:(
The only part of the trip that I am not looking forward to is leaving Tam. He will be in good hands, but they will not be mine!


Friday, April 9, 2010

Easter 2010

There was so much going on - and there was a little awesome story in Tam's behavior. After the intense egg hunt (pictures on Picasa), we returned to the row of inflatables. We had a solemn moment or two, while Tam contemplated the awesome nature of what was to come. Then a band starts playing, and, well, if you have to wait in line, you really should DANCE! Then came the climb. Intensity returns. Extreme focus and determination to reach the next stage.

Once the grandparents come back from vacation, we should have video of the slide. Sorry for the teaser!
Have you ever climbed stairs, each one half your height, for a total of 7-10 times your height? Let's just say that little shorts that cling to your non-existent butt and hamper you getting your leg up higher than your hips only make you cuter.




Thursday, April 1, 2010

Some progress...

YAY! YAY!

Our I800 package shipped tonight. Now we wait to see if the NBC(National benefits center) will adjudicate it favorably without asking for additional documentation. Not sure how long this part of the process takes, but am hoping to find out soon. I wait easier if I have a time line!

I was asked a very good question. Why are we able to file our I800 before we leave on our first trip?
I don't think this is normal, but we have been approved by the MOJ since Jan.21. We have waited almost 12 weeks for our 1st trip. It seems that other families are traveling around week 4-6 for their first trip. The MOJ generates reports that are needed for the I800 to be submitted. It takes about 6-8weeks for this to happen. So if people have already traveled they would start their I800 after they get back. There is a bit of risk starting the I800 before we meet our son. The I800 is child specific so if something were to happen we would have to re-do our I800A and I800. A risk that we have no problem taking. He is our son! So I think it comes down to how long it has taken to travel for the 1st trip. I would love to hear if anyone else has done it.
Happy Easter!


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

In the mail...


We were not sure if we needed to do our FBI fingerprints over again for travel so to be safe we had them re-done. They arrived in West Virginia on Feb.9 and were returned to us on March 31. 7 weeks and 1 day.

We did find out that we did not have to have them..we only needed our local fingerprints done again.
I am very concerned with the "break" that I am hearing the MOJ takes in the summer. We travel on April 17th for our 1st trip and are hoping to travel back in August...But with this "break" who knows. We might also need to get our local prints and medical done over again. Every time our doctor sees us he just shakes his head at us. Since May 2009 we have seen him 3 times. One for the Home study, one for the dossier, and a re-do for the MOJ. The MOJ requires it to be 6 months or less. It is my understanding that when we get a court date they again want to see it 6 months or less. If anyone knows this for sure please let us know.

We have been busy getting ready for our trip. Working on a family album to take and leave for N. Buying gifts for the caretakers and children. The orphanage is home to kids 3-7.

Prayers to all of us that our in this process no matter what stage!
hugs!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

getting closer...








We are 4 weeks away from leaving. Okay, actually 3 weeks and 6 days and feeling all the emotions that go with that. Our medical and local fingerprints that we had to re-do are ready to go. We have been ready since we found out that the MOJ approved us on Feb.3. I know 4 weeks is not that long, but I am ready to meet him. I want to hold him and let him know that we are his mommy and daddy. I have started thinking a lot about having to leave him. I remember when Barry and I first saw that we had to make two trips to Bulgaria. Oh..two trips not a problem! How naive we were. It is going to be tough.
The Bulgaria CD's that we ordered has been great! I listen a lot while I am at work. It came with a sheet that has all the phases on it so you can see them as you listen. That has been the most helpful part to me.
We received an email from our agency telling us that all of our reservations in Bulgaria are set. I was happy to see that we will have an interpreter with us for most of the trip. We spent 9 weeks in VietNam and had an interpreter for maybe 2 of the days. It amazed me how many people spoke English.
About 3 weeks ago Barry got a stomach bug and passed out in the boy's bathroom. When he fell, he crashed through the drywall. He is doing great now, but the wall needed a lot of TLC. The bathroom had wallpaper in it that I have been wanting to change for a long time. So no time like the present. The wallpaper has been torn down, hole fixed, and painted. We put bead-board up on the bottom half of the wall, chair rail, and painted the top blue. We are thinking about a "things in the sky" theme. We want to keep it simple.

Tam and Barry have been battling a cold for the last few days. Last night it got bad for both of them. Tam slept with me and Barry slept in Tam's room.
I am hoping that they will be feeling better in the next couple of days.


xxxooo



Monday, March 1, 2010

7 weeks until....

Chestita Baba Marta!

You have to love a tradition that celebrates the end of winter and welcomes in the spring. I am ready!

We have 7 weeks before we get to meet our little guy. I say little because he was 26 lbs. in September. We have only seen one picture of him and are not expecting to get anymore:(
We have been busy getting his room together. But our biggest challenge...both out laptop and camera decided that they were done. So we have been looking for the right ones with cost being a major factor. We ordered a camera, but Barry is hoping to fix our laptop. He is trying everything he can think of!
I still shake my head and can not believe that we are going to be in Bulgaria in 7 weeks. I just want to hold him and get to know him. I wonder how much they prepare him for?? When we adopted T he was only 11 months old so he went with us no questions asked. From the moment we left the orphanage we never had any issues with bonding. He trusted us completely! With D I have a lot of anxiety about how he will feel. Are the kids prepared at all for meeting us? I would doubt it, but if anyone knows please share your experience.

We ordered the Phases for children CD and got it today! We got it very quickly. I will let you know what we think after we listen to it.
Have a great week!