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.