Sometimes a week long severe lack of sleep can be a blessing... we both slept a solid 7.5 hours last night, very important for this day of 'Firsts'. We headed across the square for the continental breakfast and then to the grocery store to buy some juice to give the kids when we picked them up (and have them practice drinking out of their first sippy cups before getting on the plane). Afterwards, we just sat in mostly silence just waiting for our agency representative to call and have us come down to the street to get picked up. (this was the same taxi driver as yesterday, and last trip, he is very trusted by Rosi, our representative, who came to Varna this morning).
We headed the same winding route to the Orphanage that we took last trip in sheer anticipation. Pulling up the hill caused major flip flops in our stomachs! After signing a ledger/”sign out” sheet, we gave the kids clothes to the social worker so she could go have them changed. The social worker had told us the caregivers have been talking about us constantly and that Madison and Jonathon have just been waiting for us (so thankful for that!) She also said that the caregivers have been spending extra time with them because they will be missed when they go! Waiting on the edge of our seats in the social workers office the door FINALLY opened and here was the FIRST meeting when they were officially our children! As you can imagine, this was such a happy, amazing moment! Madison stood in the door unsure at first, but with some coaxing ran into Myra's arms. Her well-known and often talked about 4 pigtails were gone which came as a surprise. They recently gave her a haircut! Still, of course, cute as ever. Jonathon was very happy to go right to Joe. Jonathon was not in the shorts we brought because they were way, way too big! Turns ourt he wears 9-12 month pants. we've heard this from other families but thought we remembered our kids being a little chunkier! guess we were wrong. We asked for the scrapbooks and their blankets/teddy bears/albums we left last time. To our disappointment, they could not find the scrapbooks so the social worker gave us a baby picture of each of the kids from their file. To which Madison spoke for the First time today, yelling BEBE happily and holding each picture in her hands. After some quick questions (including getting the caretakers names for the kids to have as they grow), we whisked our kids off to the Varna airport. We were really only in the orphanage for about 30 minutes. It seemed go by so fast and with little fanfare. So many people were on vacation (the orphanage director, Jonathons “grandma”, the social worker we worked with last time, etc). A bit disappointing but we left their gifts for them in the office.
They did very well for us in the car and waiting in line, which was an adventure all in itself. The airport was very crowded and we had to try and make our way through any other lines to get to ours. Thankfully, Rosi was amazing (as always) and pushed our luggage cart through (all 100+ pounds of it!). We thought we would have time to rearrange before getting to the counter so we ended up carrying on a little more than we thought we would. Again it was just going by so fast. We were in the airport less than 3 minutes and our bags were checked and we were on the way to security (while the airport was very busy, Sofia wasn't an extremely popular destination.
We fumbled a bit at security trying to rearrange, carry the kids, and dump out the juice they never had a chance to drink. Sippy cups are not in their repertoire. Rosi was gone at this point, off to meet another family! The would not let us take the kids through security so he made Joe go through while the TSA guy held Jonathon and then Joe went back through and carried Jonathon through. Same for Myra/Madison. Jonathon was ok with the stranger, Madison was none too happy, mainly we think because it was a male.
Once to the gate (really just a large room with multiple doors), Myra put on her Ergobaby carrier for the First time to carry Madison to look for juice. She was SOOOO thankful to have that carrier! Freeing up her hands was great and her arm was falling asleep trying to carry her. Madison did very well in the carrier and didn't seem to mind. Madison helped Myra pick out the juice and after a very unsuccessful attempt to get them to use sippy cups, we finally just unscrewed the tops and let them drink out of the cup like they are use to. Joe was able to finally 'trick' Jonathon into realizing it was okay, but Madison has quite the stubborn streak. Jonathon ate ½ a banana we bought that morning, but Madison was only interested in walking around with Myra and showing her all the very cool things in the airport, especially the grates (that was her favorite). After boarding a shuttle bus (First shuttle bus for them) to get on the plane (First plane) we thought we were settled and decided on staying together on the side with three seats (and no one take the aisle on the other side which was also assigned to us). Then, while they are taxing down the airport they tell us we can't both sit with children in that row. We had a hard time understanding what they wanted us to do, still taxing, but after a quick shuffle later we had no idea what happened except Myra had Madison strapped to her at the widow with a harness, some larger man now sat on the aisle seat of where Myra was (he just popped out of nowhere). And then Joe was on the other aisle with Jonathon harnessed to him. Myra was able to toss over some puffs for Jonathon so he would swallow during takeoff to pop his ears. Jonathon did eat some cracker puffs during takeoff, but Madison refused to eat the yogurt bites she was eating in the car (but she didn't really seem to enjoy them at that time) so Myra was very worried about her ears, BUT she was fine (fussy during takeoff,but we think she was just scared). The refreshment cart provided juice for Madison and a chocolate filled crossient – THIS Madison was all about and ate the whole thing (minus the two pieces her starving mother stole- bad mom!). On the way back down she ate the other banana ½ and we landed safely with no screams. Jonathon also had some juice and a croissant. This was a little past their lunchtime by now so their schedule was all off.
Getting off last (since we knew we'd have to just wait on the shuttle until the last person got off) we then waited to get our luggage (again Madison was strapped in the Ergobaby). We didn't see anyone waiting for us at first so we called our representative (Eti this time) on the cell they gave us and waited a little bit. Jonathon LOVED to walk around the luggage cart and play with the wheels on all the suitcases!
Our First stop after leaving the airport was the police station to apply for passports. This took quite some time, because there was a lot of paperwork to fill out. Of course Eti took care of it all for us while we tried to entertain the kids. Madison did great for the passport photo, but Jonathon wasn't having any of it. He started screaming and crying. Joe tried, then Eti, then Joe...the first three pictures didn't work because one of them was in it by accident or he wasn't looking. The picture we did get was priceless. He looks sooo mad! But they said that it was okay for the passport unless we wanted a nicer one – nope, we're good...its perfect for a guilt trip for hi later in life! After that we went to the apartment (about 3:30) to try and get them to sleep and go grocery shopping (nap time had also come and gone during all this travel). Neither happened though. There was a cabinet FULL of toys inn our apartment),..it took 2 seconds for them to find it. :-) They played a lot, Madison surprised us by picking up a toy phone, saying 'hallo' and then giving it to Myra! Jonathon has changed quite a bit in that he seems to understand 'how' to play with toys more than our last visit. Jonathon ate a gerber meal, Madison was having none of it. There is always a little 'meltdown' from Jonathon when the food is gone, but usually a distraction away from the table helps it to pass quickly. Then came the FIRST diaper change, what a tragedy that was. Madison was so upset (lets not forget they missed their normal 12:30-3 naps so for this to be her first meltdown is really very good!), but quickly bounced back. Soon after it was Jonathon's turn – poor boy! He had the WORST diaper rash – thankfully some friends had given us this wonderful ointment they swore by (weleda) and by the 2nd diaper change later it was already looking better! Madison helped Joe by making sure he got Jonathon's shoes back on (he left them off as Jonathon went to play but Madison tracked him down and insisted on shoes) and she put away the wipes case. She is a girl who likes/needs structure and order and lots of it. A funny diaper story was Madison soon after clearly needed another change. She watched Myra set it out the wipes and changing pad and even helped to open the wipes case – then she stood up and pointed and walked toward Jonathon saying 'Pepe!' (this is what they called him in the Orphanage). We started laughing so hard...but tried to stop when her little face got all mad knowing it was her in store for the change. They are really starting to open up and although Madison watches when Myra leaves the room she is clearing becoming more comfortable with Joe, but not quite ready for him to cuddle with her or play too much. They both laughed and talked with us a lot this afternoon, although the only thing we know they said was ball (topka).
It was almost 7pm so we fed them some Mac & Cheese we had brought with us for dinner (nope, we are not worried about them being healthy eaters during this week, just that they eat!). That went over great! Then is was time for diaper change/pj's/bed (8pm). They weren't excited about any of those things. We thought they would go right to sleep since they missed their nap, but this was not the case. There was a lot of crying, followed by the cutest interaction between them (and First time we saw them really playing with each other). They laughed and poked at each other on the bed (while Joe and I laid on either side in an attempt to coax them to sleep). Then they discovered the blinds and curtains behind the headboard – they had sooo much fun with this for a long time, it got to the point that we knew they would never stop and we had to try and calm them down.. Here came the meltdown...our poor babies....tired, scared, not sure where they were or why, they fought off sleep the most the could. They had a well-deserved tantrum and we just held them and talked them through it and all of a sudden Madison just stopped yelling laid down next to Myra rubbing her back, and was asleep! Jonathon was much more difficult, but Joe was very patient with him and eventually he gave in to sleep as well.
Next – a little after 9pm, Joe was off to find whatever food he could since we had nothing to eat since our 7:30pm breakfast. McDonalds has NEVER tasted so good! I can't even tell you the last time we had it. Not really a place we frequent in the U.S. We were sitting here recounting the day when Joe said he would check in on them again. He was in the process of looking for the flashlight Myra had in her purse (yup, likes to be prepared for anything), when we heard a noise and some crying. Jonathon had fallen out of bed! Thankfully, they were very low beds, but we had just been talking about moving the mattresses from the other room to go next to them....this sealed the deal. Jonathon was scared, but fine, and they are both happily taking over the queen size bed again in about 10 minutes. Good thing there is a twin mattress on either side of the bed now for us to sleep in because they clearly aren't willing to share the main bed!
We are happily exhausted, wondering what they are thinking, praying for more improvements tomorrow and thanking God for our kids! Tomorrow is our First Full day with the kids- wonder what it will bring!