Saturday, April 16, 2011

Movin’, movin’, movin’, keep that paperwork movin’!!

As most of you know, there are three primary steps that our paperwork needs to move through before we can schedule our second travel date to pick up Jonathon and Madison.  So just to recap:


Approval at U.S. Immigration:  4-6 weeks

Issue Article 5 from the U.S. Embassy in Sofia:  4-6 weeks

Bulgaria Ministry of Justice issues court date:  2-3 weeks

Provided the court doesn’t request more information, travel will be about 2-3 weeks after court date.


Well GREAT news.  We got our U.S. Immigration approval early this week which means it was processed in only 2 weeks (see don’t knock the speed/efficiency of the all federal agencies!!)


Lets pray for continued speed but we’re ecstatic that we appear to be 2-4 weeks ahead of schedule!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lazy Saturday

After a hard, late night of registering, we decided to sleep in and enjoy one of our last few Saturday’s to do this. About 10 minutes after being awake (we will NOT reveal the actual time) Myra received a call from a friend to see if she was heading to some garage sales. She declined as she still hadn’t managed to get Joe out of bed. BUT, shortly after with pancakes a cook’in, Joe got a call from another VERY excited friend about a great kids table she found at a neighborhood sale (only a few minutes from our house) and convinced us that we better go! How fun! We actually ended up buying a number of things for our kids (and running into our friends along the way, thankfully they let us use their house as a temporary dumping area for all the things we bought)! We ended up coming home with a very large handmade kids table, a grocery cart (kids) with lots of food, a ton of books, some puzzles, blocks and of course a shape sorter!

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Following our shopping spree a number of friends were heading out for a ‘beach’ day, again not wanting to pass up such an appealing lazy and fun day we joined them! Joe even tried his hand at paddle boarding and stayed on despite attempts from an unnamed person to give him so waves and knock him off! J

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Registering Breakdown…

Friday night (April 8th), being home a week and with upcoming showers (thank you moms!!) we decided to start registering! Really, there is no need to write a long story about this…despite the fact that Myra use to sell baby things as a job, we were still quite overwhelmed by the selection! When we left (well, were kicked out because they were closing), Myra got into the car and actually started to cry….Why? Because she ACTUALLY registered for OUR kids….she said “I’m having a shower….it’s not about the ‘things’, but the fact that I am having a celebration for MY kids…I didn’t know if this day would ever come!”

The Trip Home

Time to play some catch up here! As soon as we got home Joe was only home for a day and a half before rushing off to a conference. We feel a bit settled, for a few hours anyway, and wanted to update!

Leaving Bulgaria was an odd experience, on one hand it was a relief to be heading home, on the other we were leaving our children – 7,000 miles away from where we live. We were picked up at 4:30 in the morning so only half awake, which was probably a good thing. Our plane landed in Frankfurt at 7:30am and we weren’t heading back out again until 5:30pm, so we decided to take a little break and see some of the city to get our minds off of things.

We got off the subway at a big farmer’s market and after some fruit for breakfast (okay, the fruit was actually in the subway station!) we started walking to our destination – the old Dom Cathedral (and other historical areas). Half awake still and our minds continuing drifting back to the week that had past we finally found Old Town portion. We decided that the 368 stair hike to the top of the cathedral would be good for us and work off the Cider Beer and Pretzel we were dreaming about in advance…The church was impressive and view was amazing!

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Following our ‘hike’ we crossed this old iron bridge built in the late 1800s, there were hundreds, probably thousands, of locks on the bridge – many with engagement dates. We need to look this up – some sort of engagement tradition? After wandering around to find ‘the’ place for taverns and famous cider beer, we wandered back to the subway stop. We could not believe what a HUGE difference a few hours made in activity! When we walked through in the morning there was hardly a soul out, on our walk back the pedestrian streets were packed with shoppers, performers, families and bikes!


Our trip home was fairly uneventful, until we received our ‘welcome home surprises’:

Arriving to our car in the parking garage at about 1am in the morning we found a ticket on it. We had forgotten to update our tags before we left and they expired during the week while we were gone (guess our minds were elsewhere?). THANKFULLY the nice Tampa ticket enforcement made sure to drive around the parking garage and look for tags that expire mid-trip , so thoughtful! ;-P When we pulled into our driveway at 1:30am a VERY large branch had fallen and took a large potted plant with it…hmmmm….When we walked in the door it appeared we had left out our welcome sign for all the ants in the neighborhood – they had moved in and overtaken our laundry and poor cat’s food and water ….WELCOME HOME!!!

But, really, all that barely phased us (Sadie might had been slightly bothered) – we had just returned from an amazing trip…we met our kids….we enjoyed their country…we were making plans to bring them home!!!

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Our final day in Sofia

Friday morning was time for some final paperwork that VESTA needed before we left. After finding a little French bakery near the apartment, Rosi met us and walked with us to the notary’s office to complete all the remaining forms. She then showed us to the city square which is lined with DSCN3692 the Hall of Presidents, Kings Palace, St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, among many other beautiful buildings.  Nearby, a large statue of St. Sofia stands in the center of a main thoroughfare.  Before saying our  goodbyes she pointed us to stairs leading down to an underground street crossing which she suggested was the best place to buy Bulgarian souvenirs. We spent a good bit of time there (even though there are only about 8 small shops) and found one gentleman extremely easy to talk to and he taught us a bit about Bulgarian traditions/items while he carved some of the wood items he sells as part of his store. We actually went back to him three times throughout the day! We are excited to have some traditional gifts for our kids!

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DSCN3682Along the walk we passed by an artists shop and outside was a large painted egg called “The Happiness Egg”.  The plaque in front said you were supposed to touch the egg and make a wish.  We both made our wish and I tend to bet most of you reading this can guess what it was!


We stopped at a chain restaurant called “Happy” of which there are two varieties; Happy Bar and Grill and Happy Sushi. We had tried the former in Varna so this time we sampled the sushi (I know, we are really diverting from the Bulgarian ‘experience’ today). Within a walking loop around the square (and in front of St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral) there was a line of women selling hand-sewn items (of course we couldn’t resist) and then another flea market-type area with a wide of array of items. We fell in love with a painting a gentleman was selling but just couldn’t get over the thought of trying to pack it and get it home. We must say the people in Bulgaria have all been so welcoming and nice. Everyone working in the stores and markets smile, try to help us via hand gestures, etc. One young guy worked in a supermarket near our apartment that we went to about three times. He was there when we went at 8 in the morning and again at seven at night. He always smiled when we came in and we said “I know, we’re back”, to which he replied, “Yeah, and I’m still here”!

We got back to the apartment earlier today after a day of walking and shopping (about 3:30pm). We relaxed a bit, wrote out some of the days events in the journal for the kids (which doubles as our blog posts), and of course ate yet another dessert we picked up at a little pastry shop on the way back (we walked a lot, right?).   This second apartment was probably even nicer than the first (even had a dishwasher!) although again, you really wouldn’t know it by looking at the outside!  Most buildings/offices are really that way here.

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We went over to the same Bulgarian restaurant at about 6pm to have our last Bulgarian beer and tried a traditional Bulgarian stew (yum) and a few other dishes I’m sure we’d never be able to replicate.

Two or three times during the day we sat down and looked through all the pictures we took and watched a few videos. Really it made us smile to remember the time we had with them. Throughout the day we would stop and ask each other, “Do you think they expected to be taken from the room to come see us today like all the other days and then got disappointed thinking we left them”? “Do you think they will remember us”? “Will they be mad we left and didn’t come back for 4 months”? Those kinds of questions are hard to think about; what is really going on in their minds? We sometimes looked at our watches and said, “Oh they are just getting ready to eat lunch now”, or “they should be getting ready for bed now”. Those thoughts are somewhat comforting; their life, as they know it, will go on for a few more months and the caretakers will hopefully talk to them about us, show them the photo albums we left them (thanks Johnny!), and push the buttons on the bears so they can hear us say how much we love them. We talk often about what we will bring the second trip, how many suitcases we will pack, and have started the packing list. Preparations are a good way to pass the time.

Soon it will be time for lots and lots of house preparations. Finishing our backroom so it’s not the child hazard it is now (exposed holes, power tools, electrical wires, etc) and preparing their room to welcome them home. It’s an exciting time. God is good.

Back in Sofia…

On Thursday after we left the director’s office we headed directly for the Varna airport to return to Sophia. Varna is actually the second or third largest city in Bulgaria (there’s debate over whether Sofia and its neighboring city are one city or two), home to about 1 million people. In the summer it is extremely busy because it is a vacation destination (guess coastal cities tend to be that way!) but in the winter the hotels and restaurants along the coast are rather empty. In the winter there is about one flight to/from Sofia but in the summer there are more (at a higher price of course). So, to make a long explanation longer, we had one chance to get back to Sofia and that was a departing flight at 12:30pm.

The flight was an uneventful 50 minutes where we actually nodded off a bit right after take-off, mostly from emotional exhaustion. We landed in Sofia, caught a taxi and picked up the keys to our apartment for the next two nights. After dropping off the luggage, Rosi oriented us to where we were (still on the main road like the last apartment, Vitosha Street, but a bit further down the street from downtown). We parted ways with Rosi and then we headed to nice traditional Bulgarian restaurant near the apartment for a 3pm late lunch! We drowned our sorrows in a nice, refreshing Bulgarian beer (Zagorka I think), and fed them with some roasted red peppers covered in tomato sauce (delicious) interesting pizza and a mixed bowl, which I’m pretty sure ended up to be a bowl of mostly cheese (time for a cholesterol check after this trip!).

DSCN3696We decided to head for a walk towards downtown and went past a large Russian church in the center (right by the courthouse - where VESTA will, by power of attorney, represent our adoption case to the judge over the next few months).


On a roll and lacking many souvenirs or future gifts for the kids we kept walking to the City Market and then on to the “Woman’s Market” which is an outdoor flea market with lots of produce and clothes. We had read to be weary and were later told that even Rosi is a little frightened to go there..hmmmm. BUT, we were smart with placement of things and honestly didn’t find it scary at all. We bought a little traditional bell (often worn around the waist in ceremonial dress) which will serve as our Christmas ornament (which we like to collect from each place we visit).




At the market they even had an outdoor store with about 12 wooden barrels of wine.  You can bring your own container (people were lined up with large water bottles, etc) and fill it up with the wine of your choosing!





We’ll digress here for a minute to explain a holiday here called Martinista (we’ll check the spelling on that) which is on March 1st to celebrate the coming of spring and is quite a large celebration. The city becomes adorned with white and red ‘yarn dolls’ of different shapes/sizes. The traditional one is a boy and girl doll, which we bought in a couple sizes. This is a holiday we’d like to celebrate with the kids, just a fun way to celebrate the arrival of spring (which honestly in Florida may be a little hard to differentiate). Even though the holiday is over and there isn’t much evidence left we were able to find the dolls and some bracelets people wear hanging throughout the city.

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On the way back from the Woman’s Market (with legs feeling numb by this point) we stopped for a quick chicken gyro and headed back for some rest.


We’ve had a couple inquiries about the math references in one of the previous posts (glad to see those Polinsky/Lynch’s are a curious bunch).  One time when Myra was at a womens’ leadership conference they were discussing how women are often more emotional than men and in a workplace environment dominated by men they may want/need to suppress this at times.  One of the suggestions was to start doing simple math in your head so that you activate the other side of your brain and essentially ‘shut down’ the emotional part that controls those tear ducts!

Friday, April 01, 2011

So long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu…

Today was the 'big' day so to say...when we had to say goodbye to our children for a few months. Part of this day was to give the caretakers anything else we wanted the kids to have close them over the next few months. The teacher and social worker also wanted to know what their new names would be so that they can start calling them by these names over the next few months. We fretted over the decision of changing their names. But for a bunch of reasons that we won’t go into here, we decided to change them. Our coordinator had mentioned earlier in the trip that the caretakers at the orphanage are often surprised when a child’s name is not changed. What you often see in the U.S. is that the child’s given name becomes their new middle name to retain a part of their heritage. This is what we have chosen to do. Interestingly, we’ve been told that officials/caretakers here are also surprised by that practice (assuming both names would be changed). When children are adopted here domestically, both names are usually changed, so this is nothing unusual and made us feel even better about our choice.

SO drum roll please…..we will now refer to them by their new names: Madison Antoaneta and Jonathon Petar.

Okay, on to the day. We arrived at the orphanage at 9am with our remaining toys for them to play with/donate and their teddy bears that have our voices recorded in them. We arrived with the Italian family again; they had their little boy they just adopted with them – so cute! We were brought back up to the family room and awaited the arrival of Madison and Jonathon. After a few minutes the social worker arrived, carrying Jonathon and Madison holding her hand. As soon as the door opened both were noticeably very happy and when Myra called to Madison she came running into her arms! Jonathon was immediately excited to be in Joe's arms and the social worker told our coordinator, Rosi, that as soon as she arrived to get the kids from their room, they knew why she was there and where they were going and so Madison turned to the kids in the room and said 'Ciao' and went right to her. Apparently she was noticing a routine!

After allowing Myra to hold her for a minute Madison went to the paper bag we brought everyday to see what the new toys would be (Joe had that fabulous idea – to bring the toys in the same way everyday and she definitely caught on!). Madison started with a turtle and then allowed Joe to show her the coloring books and crayons. She tried to color by Joe for a little while before walking over to Myra's lap with the book and crayon.

Jonathon enjoyed playing with different toys (with Joe of course). A couple times we tried the kid swap, but today whenever Myra would try and hold Jonathon, Madison would soon head over and plop down on her to try and claim ownership. Jonathon, who we’ve already been told hates to share attention, would get mad immediately at the thought of ‘divided attention’ and would fuss until he was let go and could crawl over to Joe. We'll have to work on this down the road! But for right now we are just thankful that they both seem to feel some sort of affinity to one of us. At one point after the social worker had left, Rosi also left the room and soon thereafter Madison walked over to the door wanting to also leave. The family room is really pretty small with limited things and she preferred to be down in the big playroom. Joe tried to get read her the animal book (which she was ok with on some previous days) but she quickly hustled away, threw herself on the ground complaining and needed some comfort from good ‘ole mom from mean ‘ole dad. She still resists eye contact from both of us but feels comfortable sitting in Myra’s lap for long periods of time coloring or reading. She LOVES books. And Jonathon pretty much loves anything he can bang around or materials he can crinkle (he didn’t let go of a sheet of stickers for a solid half hour, but they are no longer stickers…just a ball of paper!). Madison still LOVES to put things away. We took one video today that shows her putting everything back up on a table and then grabbing the big bag of foam blocks again (we’ll be sure to get another one of those to have at home!). She put them down and Joe thought this was his chance. He unzipped the bag for her and she started getting out some pieces and handing them to him (only 2 pieces, then she takes them back and puts them back in the bag). But alas, after about 5 minutes she stood up, picked up the bag, walked around the back of Joe, around the perimeter of the whole room and back over to Myra and plopped them in front of her.

We brought yogurt again as a snack and we got those out when both started to feel a little pent up. Madison sat in a little green chair and we decided Joe would feed her again. She is fine with Joe feeding her the snacks (but not lunch), although she doesn’t really look happy in the process! They are used to a rather strict way of eating which is something we’ll have to work on when we get home. Jonathon was a bit fussy but Myra eventually fed him standing up and got through it! At least this time there wasn’t a major fit when it was all gone! After the yogurt, the social worker took us to go see their rooms and play room (we had asked for this as we wanted pictures to show them later). They waited to do this until all of the other children had gone outside to play. At first when the social worker came in to lead us downstairs, both kids started to have a meltdown; turns out they thought they were leaving US. Myra had a little tear in her eyes about this one....time for some math (some will get this, but we can tell whoever is curious what this means later)!

We were quite impressed with the eating and play rooms. We saw their cribs and the caretakers had put the blanket we brought each of them and laid it in their crib. They also took the teddy bears at this point (we had introduced them to the kids a few time in the room the past few days) and also placed them in their cribs. The playroom (renovated about 8 years ago we were told) had lots of bright primary colors and toys! While there, the caregivers pointed out Jonathon's favorite toy, the blue rocking horse we saw him on in the early videos (he clearly LOVED it in the video). The social worker wanted to show us how much he loved it so she took him from Joe to put him on it and he immediately started screaming – he wanted JOE more than his favorite toy! The caregivers all said (in Bulgarian), ohhhh, he wants Daddy! This was a good sign! He calmed down immediately when he was in Joe’s arms again (ok, Joes turn to do some math!). While in the room Madison had gone over to a toy bench and picked up a toy piano and carried it around. When it was time to leave the room she did NOT want to leave it behind so they said to go ahead and take it with her (ok, making notes…she loves books and a piano!).

Now we had only about 20 more minutes left with the kids, then we had to say goodbye. We had to leave at 11am to catch our flight back to Sofia. We spent this time in the big playroom, which they seem to love. Madison spent some time pushing around a big dump truck (she’s not much of a doll girl but give her a big truck and she’s happy!). Jonathon walked (with Joes support) to the yellow riding truck that he loves to push himself around on. We’ve seen this almost every day with him! Madison played in the big plastic play barn for a while and loved to open/close the windows. Their teacher came in at one point with two other kids and started to play the piano for one of them and Madison seemed to really like this. She walked over to play keys on the piano but was redirected to the toy piano by the teacher and she seemed to enjoy playing along with the teacher. Jonathon at one point walked over to the riding three-wheeler (it was battery powered but no longer works) and Joe put him on it and pushed him around for a solid 10 minutes. After some more playing and swinging the kids around, the time had come. We held them and stood close together explaining (although it was really for us as they don't understand English) that we had to leave, but we loved them and would be back as soon as we could. We explained we would travel on a big plane and then come back soon and all four of us would get on the next plane together and go home as a big family (Myra was practically solving differential equations in her head by this point…). The social workers assistant came to take the children but again they started to get visibly upset. She tried to call the kids teacher because she believe they would go to her and be less upset but because she did not answer she took Jonathon in her arms and then took Madison's hand. They started to walk down the hall and we waved furiously at them saying ‘Ciao, Ciao!’. The silhouette image of them walking down the dark hallway (which seemed to take forever) is still burned into our memories. Jonathon’s precious face peering over the caretakers shoulder and the back of Madison (still with the crazy hair ponytails!) walking hand-in-hand. We did well not to cry in front of them because we didn’t want to scare them. And Myra only allowed a few tears to fall in the midst of so many people in the playroom.

We stopped by the director's office to say good-bye. She said that she is thrilled that we are happy with our visit and that the kids are happy with us. She told us not to worry and that they would take VERY good care of them until we could return. We know this is true and that is somewhat of a comfort.

Our Bulgarian Feast

Wednesday night we went out to a traditional Bulgarian restaurant with Rosi, another VESTA agent (whose name we know but cannot spell!), and the Italian adoption case worker.  It was great to sample lots of traditional Bulgarian foods with the atmosphere of Bulgarian clothing and decorations.  Not much to say but the wine and food were all wonderful….and highly recommended!  We even liked the traditional plates so much we bought some in Sofia (but more about that shopping trip later).

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